Following the tragedy of the January 1967 Apollo 1 launchpad fire, the success of this mission was a badly needed confidence builder. The Command Module had been extensively redesigned to eliminate the risk of another conflagration, and the program had fallen behind schedule. This mission was primarily intended as a shakedown of the new Command Module and the Service Module, including the Service Propulsion System (SPS) that would be relied upon to place Apollo into and out of Lunar orbit.
The mission was a roaring success. Because it was launched without the Lunar Module, it was able to be placed into orbit by the smaller, more extensively tested Saturn 1B rather than the magnificent but still brand-new Saturn V. The SPS performed almost flawlessly on eight separate firings, and the larger and more commodious cabin was significantly more comfortable than the cramped quarters of the Gemini flights.
The eleven days in orbit, though, took their toll: The food was bad, and all three astronauts caught colds. But Apollo 7 demonstrated the spaceworthiness of the basic Apollo vehicle, and truly great deeds were very near in its future.
On this flight, Wally Schirra became the only astronaut to fly on Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, and will forever remain the one and only man with that honor.
Updated November 12, 2008
Charles Redmond, Author
Steven J. Dick, NASA Chief Historian
Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator
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