He usually didn't like long flights, but when he forgot to scratch off the last day, he realized that he was starting to regard space travel as normal. During this time, the crew took many photos and reels of cine film of the Earth that helped to demonstrate the value of orbital observations and convey to the public the beauty and fragility of Earth. One observation set that stands out was that of Hurricane Gladys, which raged along the Atlantic seaboard of the United States during the mission.
The giant cyclone could be seen clearly from Apollo 7 and the crew took several photographs that were later compared with other data, demonstrating to potential of orbital observations. These were of personal interest to Apollo 7 because Gladys directly affected them. But even the relative leisure couldn't counter the pressure cooker atmosphere aboard Apollo 7.
For much of the mission, the crew was in bad spirits and things quickly came to a head with the astronauts becoming less than gracious, arguing with mission control and openly refusing to follow instructions. In other words, NASA had history's first mutiny in space on its hands.
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There were a number of reasons for this episode. One was the "just one more thing" syndrome — a persistent problem that plagues many programs. Scientists, engineers, and administrators always want to add one more item to a flight agenda — even after launch. Each one seems perfectly reasonable, but too many reasonable requests soon become unreasonable. It's a problem that carried on through the Skylab missions in the s when one crew also mutinied in a demand for time off. Another reason was that NASA tended to forget that people are not equipment. They do have a breaking point, especially aggressive male Type A test pilots like the ones who made up the first generation of astronauts.
They were the kind who'd walk away from a jet plane crash cool as a cucumber, but wouldn't brook having their decisions questioned when push came to shove. The constant barrage of requests for additional experiments and observations despite an already crammed, carefully prepared schedule increased tensions and started to be seen by the crew as directly affecting the mission. Schirra already had a reputation for taking the power and responsibility of a flight officer very seriously — that the commander of an aircraft or spaceship is ultimately responsible for their ship, has the best understanding of the situation, and is the ultimate authority outranking all others while in flight.
Even on the ground, he made it clear during planning sessions that he had the last word because he was in the command seat. Now that he was retiring, he had little incentive to compromise when he thought he was in the right. But the biggest factor was illness. The crew of Apollo 7 had suffered some space sickness — a new one for space travel and very likely caused by being able to move about the capsule.
But then Schirra, followed quickly by the other two men, came down with a severe cold. That may not sound like much, but without gravity, sinuses and the inner ears can't drain and the pressure can't be equalized. The only relief came from blowing hard to compensate for the lack of drainage. Actifed an over-the counter combination of pseudoephedrine decongestant with triprolidine antihistamine and aspirin from the medical kit alleviated some of the symptoms for a time, but none of the crew was in a good mood and the heavy pressure of the early part of the flight brought things to a head when Schirra got into an argument with mission control.
Television was to the s what the internet is to today. It was the new, revolutionary, dominant medium that held remarkable sway over public opinion around the world, and NASA wanted to take full advantage of it. Apollo 7 was supposed to be the first US mission to broadcast live television to Earth. The government saw its tremendous PR and diplomatic value that would show the taxpayers what they're paying for and the world how advanced the American space program was. However, television was also a major bone of contention during planning.
The camera weighed 4. Engineers and astronauts regarded it as secondary to the mission's objectives and Schirra didn't want to use it until the primary program was completed. He refused to set up the camera until after the rendezvous maneuvers and engine tests were completed. With his temper frayed by his cold, Schirra's conversations with mission control weren't very cordial:. SCHIRRA: You've added two burns to this flight schedule, and you've added a urine water dump; and we have a new vehicle up here, and I can tell you at this point TV will be delayed without any further discussion until after the rendezvous.
No other activity is associated with TV; I think we are still obligated to do that. At this point, I have a cold. I refuse to foul up our timelines this way. Eventually, the crew did seven good natured broadcasts for the public that were a big hit. The astronauts seemed happy and in good spirits as they showed off their home, floated in weightlessness, tossed objects about and showed how to prepare a meal in space.
They even held up cue cards saying, "Keep those cards and letters coming In, Folks" and "Hello from the lovely Apollo Room high atop everything. But that wasn't the end of the mutinous behavior. A more severe row broke out near the end of the mission as Schirra discussed reentry with mission control. Apollo 7 was the first to use the Apollo fishbowl spacesuit helmets.
These were one piece of solid Lexan plastic without a raisable visor, so the astronauts couldn't pinch or blow their noses with them on. Schirra was adamant with the crew's backing that the helmets would not be worn on reentry because of the crew's colds. He was afraid that there was a danger of rupturing their eardrums and sinuses during reentry and mission control argued that there was the possibility that the capsule might depressurize on the trip down or the astronauts suffering head trauma on landing, so the helmets had to stay on.
I think you ought to clearly understand that there is absolutely no experience at all with landing without the helmet on. I guess you better be prepared to discuss in some detail when we land why we haven't got them on. I think you're too late now to do much about it. I don't think anybody down there has worn the helmets as much as we have. The only thing we're concerned about is the landing. We couldn't care less about the reentry. But it's your neck, and I hope you don't break it.
On October 22, , after orbits, Apollo 7 used the main engine for a retro burn, then separated the Command Module for reentry while the Service Module burned up in the atmosphere. The reentry went without a hitch except for a loss in telemetry due to a power glitch. The Command Module, with some embarrassment, landed upside down, but the airbags in the upper section quickly righted it. The capsule followed them at am EDT. As the three men stepped onto the flight deck of the Essex they realized that they had completed a mission that involved thousands of people back on Earth of whom these were only a small fraction.
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Though they didn't admit it until later, the now unfamiliar tug of gravity made them feel as if their trousers were always falling down. For Apollo 7, the mutiny had its consequences. Schirra delivered a textbook perfect flight, but none of the three flew in space again. Schirra became a consultant and commentator for the CBS News coverage of space missions. He also agreed to be pitch man for the Actifed cold medicine he'd used on the flight and went on to a career in business and writing.
He even won an Emmy for his Apollo 7 television broadcasts. Wally Schirra died of a heart attack in while undergoing cancer treatment.
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He went into the US Peace Corps and politics and died of a heart attack at the age of 57 in But in , it was time to tally up the achievements of Apollo 7. There was much more. Apollo 7's achievement led to a rapid review of the Apollo 8 mission as Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham spent six long days in debriefing. Just over a month later Apollo 8 was ready for its December 21 launch, reaching the Moon on December 24 and conducting 10 orbits of our biggest satellite before splashing down in the Atlantic on December Apollo 11 launched six and a half months later.
Apollo 7, Lunar Module Pilot, R. In the shadow of Apollo 1. The Apollo 7 crew.
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