Apollo 7 – astronauts get the travel bug

The first Apollo mission to carry a human crew was numbered Apollo 7. It was also the first U.S. spaceflight to fly with three astronauts, plus probably the grumpiest mission ever after all three went down with head colds.

The Apollo 7 crew, Don Eisele, Commander, Walter M. Schirra and Walter Cunningham. Image credit: NASA

The mission, launched by a Saturn IB rocket in October 1968, was planned to last 11 days and provide a test of the combined Command and Service Modules (CSM) in low-Earth orbit. No Lunar Module was carried.

Trouble began soon after launch when the crew’s commander, space veteran Walter Schirra, reported symptoms of a cold developing. A day later, the two other astronauts, Don Eisele and Walter Cunningham, started to go down with the bug too.

The crew’s symptoms were made worse in zero gravity because fluids could not drain from the head. They found it so uncomfortable that they rebelled against some commands from mission control at Houston and finally refused to wear their space helmets during re-entry, claiming it would prevent them relieving pressure on their sinuses.

The mission, which was the first crewed trip to broadcast live TV from space, ended when the crew’s capsule splashed down in the Atlantic. But after their mini mutiny, none of the crew ever flew in space again.

The crew of Apollo 7 are picked up from the Pacific by helicopter after splashdown. Image credit: NASA

Next: Apollo 8 – a Christmas trip around the Moon