What happened on this day in history: Apollo 7 was launched by the U.S., the first manned Apollo mission in which live television broadcasts were received from orbit.
Apollo 7 was also the first U.S. spaceflight to carry astronauts since the flight of Gemini XII in November 1966. The AS-204 mission, also known as “Apollo 1″, was intended to be the first manned flight of the Apollo program. It was scheduled to launch in February of 1967, but just a month earlier, a fire in the cabin during a test killed the crew. Manned flights were then suspended for 21 months, while the cause of the accident was investigated and improvements made to the spacecraft and safety procedures, and unmanned test flights of the Saturn V rocket and Apollo Lunar Module were made. Apollo 7 fulfilled the previous Apollo mission of testing the Apollo Command/Service Module (CSM) in low Earth orbit.
The astronauts aboard were Wally Schirra, Don Fulton Eisele and R. Walter Cunningham. Official crew titles were made consistent with those that would be used for the manned lunar landing missions: Eisele was Command Module Pilot and Cunningham was Lunar Module Pilot. Their mission was Apollo’s “C” mission, an 11-day Earth-orbital test flight to check out the redesigned Block II CSM with a crew on board. It was the first time a Saturn IB vehicle put a crew into space; Apollo 7 was the first 3-person American space mission, and the first to include a live TV broadcast from an American spacecraft. It was launched October 11, 1968, from what was then known as Cape Kennedy Air Force Station in Florida. Despite tension between the crew and ground controllers, the mission was a complete technical success, giving NASA the confidence to send Apollo 8 into orbit around the Moon two months later. The flight would prove to be the final space flight for all of its three crew members—and the only one for both Cunningham and Eisele—when it splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean on October 22, 1968. It was also the only manned launch from Launch Complex 34, as well as the last launch from the complex.