Astronaut Walter Cunningham died January 3, 2023 signaling an end of an era. The former Apollo 7 astronaut died in Houston, Texas at the age of 90. A spokesman said that Cunningham died after a fall.
He was the last surviving member of the first three man Apollo mission with Walter M. Schirra and Donn F. Eisele that orbited the Earth for eleven days, sending live Emmy Award winning television broadcasts from their spaceship in 1968. While the crew never left Earth’s orbit, they helped to pave the way for the moon missions that followed. It was his only trip into space.
It was also the first Apollo flight after the launch pad deaths as a result of a fire a year earlier.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson spoke on Cunningham saying, “above all (he was) an explorer whose work also laid the foundation for the agency’s new Artemis moon program.”
Walter Cunningham was born on March 16, 1932 in Creston, Iowa but attended high school in California. As a child he dreamed of flying airplanes saying, “we never even knew that there were astronauts when I was growing up.” He enlisted into the United States Navy in 1951 and served as a pilot for the Marine corps in Korea where he flew 54 missions. After the Navy, Cunningham earned a B.S. and an M.S. degree from the University of California before joining NASA.
After NASA, Cunningham worked as an engineer, became a public speaker and radio host, and worked in business and investment.
Cunningham’s accolades include being a member of the Astronaut, International Space, and the Houston, Halls of Fame; was awarded the NASA Exceptional Medal and Navy Astronaut Wings, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the AIAA Haley Astronautics Award, and the American Legion Medal of Valor,
Cunningham is survived by his wife Dot, children Brian and Kimberly, and sister Cathy.
Feature photo credit: Walter Cunningham.jpg – Portrait of astronaut Walter Cunningham.