Apollo Cunningham Obituary, Death– It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of Apollo Cunningham last night. Walt visited the National Space Centre in 2015 and it was my great privilege to give him and his wife Dot a tour. It is one of the few times that I have been able to chat with an Apollo astronaut one-on-one, and I was struck by just how down to earth and nice he was. I was however, for one brief moment, stopped in my tracks as he looked at an artefact we had on display and uttered, “Are you sure that’s genuine?”
Walt flew in space on Apollo 7, the critical mission to prove the Apollo spacecraft after the disaster of the Apollo 1 fire. It took great courage to do what he and crewmates Wally Schirra and Donn Eisele did. Yet, I think Walt suffered from the fact that Apollo 7 has largely been forgotten – existing in the shade of more famous missions such as Apollo 11 and Apollo 13.
In fact, as we chatted, he challenged me saying that he bet we had nothing on display to do with his mission. But we did! And he seemed genuinely pleased to hear that he could see an object and display that was about him and his mission. I took him to see his own NASA jacket, now on display in our Soyuz Lounge.
As he looked, he asked me the question about its authenticity – based on the fact that the jacket had an Apollo 7 patch on it. He explained that the jacket pre-dated the Apollo 1 fire, which meant that it should not have an Apollo 7 patch on it, as that mission had not even been planned at that stage.
Thankfully for our display – and my heart, which had leapt into my mouth – we subsequently worked out with him that the Apollo 7 patch was a later addition to the jacket he had worn in training. I couldn’t help but feel there was a cheeky glint in his eyes though. Like so many of the Apollo-era astronauts, he was a hero and will be sadly missed