Remembering Apollo 7: Milestones, mutiny and the mission that paved the way for the Moon landing
Exactly 50 years ago on October 11, 1968, America returned to space with its most ambitious manned mission up to that time. Born in the aftermath of a fiery tragedy, Apollo 7 tends to get overlooked in the popular mind against the romantic glare of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, but this first flight of an untested spacecraft not only made possible Neil Armstrong's one small step, it also made history as the stage for the first (minor) mutiny in space.
In the shadow of Apollo 1
Apollo 7 was the mission that was never meant to be. Originally the second of the Apollo missions, it was canceled by NASA as redundant in the wake of the anticipated AS-204 mission, now known as Apollo 1. However, Apollo 1 never left the ground and ended in tragedy on January 27, 1967 as astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died in a launch pad accident during a training rehearsal.
Owing to a number of engineering flaws, the space capsule the three men sat in caught fire and the pure oxygen they were breathing at sea level pressure turned the spacecraft into a smoky inferno. Poor design of the escape hatch delayed the gantry crew getting to them and the result was three deaths, a nation in mourning, and a major setback for the American space program during the height of the Cold War.
An investigation revealed there were serious problems with the Apollo program and manned flights were suspended. The accident showed major design problems in the Command Module where the astronauts traveled, the spacesuits, safety devices, as well as launch pad procedures and quality control.
NASA flew no manned mission from November 1966 to October 1968. This was only about the same interval between the last Mercury and the first Gemini flights, but such a delay after a fatal accident was putting the entire Moon program into jeopardy, while handing the Soviet Union a major advantage in the race to be the first on the Moon. Canceled in December 1966, Apollo 7 was reactivated shortly after the Apollo 1 fire to make up for lost time.
The Apollo 7 crew
To fly Apollo 7, NASA chose one of their most experienced astronauts plus two rookies. As mission Commander, Walter M. "Wally" Schirra was tapped. One of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, Schirra had already flown the six-orbit, nine-hour Sigma 7 Mercury mission and was the Command Pilot on the Gemini VI mission, which carried out one of the first orbital rendezvous.
For Command Module Pilot, Don F. Eisele was chosen. One of the third group of astronauts, he'd already made a name as a project engineer and test pilot. And finally, R. Walter Cunningham was to be Lunar Module Pilot. Also one of the 1963 third group, he'd worked on a number of classified projects and had designed instruments for NASA's Orbiting Geophysical Observatory satellite.
The three were announced on September 29, 1966, but when the mission was initially scrubbed they were reassigned as back-up crew for Apollo 1 until the fire that reauthorized Apollo 7.
Apollo 7 mission objectives
What made Apollo 7 so urgent was that NASA was facing more than one dilemma. Aside from the tragic fire, NASA learned that the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) that was to put the first astronauts on the Moon was a year behind schedule. This sparked a bold idea by senior space agency officials to leapfrog forward and send a manned mission directly to orbit the Moon without attempting a landing – the mission that we know today as Apollo 8.
The problem was that no one would authorize such a feat unless they were certain that the Apollo Command Service Module (CSM) that would carry the three astronauts to the Moon was up to the job. Until then, Apollo 8 was left penciled in and low key.
The purpose of the first Apollo flight was outlined by Robert B. Voas at the Manned Spacecraft Center in a paper he wrote back in 1961. He talked about how astronauts on a voyage to the Moon would have to remain with their ship and be able to maintain its systems at all times if they were to return safely. In addition, the crew had to be like the crew of a new naval vessel and follow their specific spacecraft through design, production, modification, and testing until they knew it better than their own children.
In addition, they would have to know how to steer the craft, navigate manually using tables and slide rules, operate the onboard computer and verify the results, check subsystems, make optical sightings, conduct scientific experiments, and maintain naval-style watches. The latter was particularly important for Apollo 7 because this was a shakedown cruise where everything had to be monitored at all times.
So, the primary objectives for Apollo 7 was an engineering test flight to demonstrate how well the CSM works, how the crew performs, to demonstrate the ability of the CSM to rendezvous with another spacecraft, and to put the life support, propulsion, guidance and control systems through their paces. Most of the important tests would be completed within three days, but the mission was open ended to 11 days to test the endurance of the spacecraft and crew for the equivalent of a lunar mission.
But there was another purpose to Apollo 7 and a much more immediate one. Even though the Apollo flights were just staring and the Moon landing was less than a year away, NASA was suffering from morale problems. The actual work on the Apollo program peaked in 1964, and by the time Apollo 7 was on the pad the Saturn IB project was coming to an end as the last boosters rolled into storage. Real worries about the future of the space agency had to be addressed.
Apollo 7 was the comeback kid mission that would show NASA personnel and the world that the space agency still had it.
"A magnificent flying machine"
Key to this was the CSM or, more specifically, Apollo CSM-101, which was being built by North American Rockwell in California. Weighing in at 36,419 lb (16,519 kg) when fully loaded, the CSM was the Apollo mothership and the first true spaceship that was capable of undertaking a voyage to another celestial body with a crew onboard.
By 1960s standards, the Command Service Module (CSM) was a giant. It consisted of the Command Module, which was a truncated cone made of an inner pressure vessel and a protective outer skin. It was 11.4 ft (3.5 m) tall and 12.8 ft (3.9 m) wide and weighed 12,250 lb (5,560 kg) at lift off. Inside, it had 218 ft³ (6.2 m³) of living space, or about that of a 4x4 motor car. This capsule served as the habitat for the crew and contained all the command and control systems as well as navigation systems, life support, and the docking mechanism for linking to the Lunar Module. It was the only part of the entire mission spacecraft and booster that would return to Earth.
Attached to the Command Module was the Service Module, which was a metal cylinder 24.8 ft (7.6 m) long, 12.8 ft (3.9 m) wide, and weighed 54,060 lb (24,520 kg). This unpressurized module contained the main engine and propellant tanks for the trip to the Moon and back, being cast off just before the final reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. In addition, there were fuel cells for creating electricity and drinking water – another first – as well as the reaction control system, gyros, and the umbilicals to provide electricity, command lines, and other connections to the Command Module.
Since the Saturn V was still under testing and Apollo 7 was set to only go into low Earth orbit, the smaller Saturn IB was selected to put the CSM into space. This consisted of the S-IB first stage and the S-IVB second stage, which carried the CSM and would act as the third stage on the Saturn V. Normally, the CSM would have been too heavy for the smaller booster, so most of the fuel in the Service Module was removed since it wouldn't be needed anyway. Because the lunar module wasn't ready yet, it was not included, but the adapter that would have contained it was.
Preparing the ship and crew
Work on CSM-101 had already begun in early 1966 and by July it was almost ready for testing. After the Apollo 1 fire, it was essentially gutted and rebuilt after a massive redesign effort to take on board the lessons learned. This involved 137 major changes that included a new, easier to open escape hatch, armor plating in key areas, replacing metal with plastic where possible and fabric ties with fasteners, eliminating fire channels, using only wire with flameproof insulation, developing new spacesuits, and installing a new emergency oxygen system and fire extinguishers.
Meanwhile, the Apollo 7 crew members were undergoing their own intensive preparations. In January 1967, the crew was already on its way to rendezvous with their new ship on the factory floor in California, where they studied every step of the construction, modifications, and testing until they were on a first name basis with every rivet and circuit breaker.
They also spent 600 hours in the command module simulator working the 725 manual controls as they encountered a bewildering array of simulated emergencies and malfunctioning systems. They sat in the capsule or a test version in altitude chamber tests, launch pad escape tests, and splashdown and recovery tests in the Gulf of Mexico, which include practicing how to right the capsule if it landed upside down.
Then were the science briefings, celestial navigation training at the Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina and the Griffith Planetarium in California, and poring over reports by other Apollo crews on problems their ships were showing and ideas for solving them. In between all this was the most vigorous physical fitness training imaginable, and solo piloting T-38 jet flights on a regular basis to keep up their air skills as they flew cross country between NASA centers.
And on top of this were all sorts of additions and changes made right up to less than a month before lift off. This wasn't just mission related. On September 20, 1968, Wally Schirra announced his retirement from the astronaut corps after Apollo 7. In a later Life magazine interview he stated his reasons as, "The Space Age is very hungry. It devours people. I have been completely devoured by this business. Now I'm going to take time to consider it all, to tell people about it."
On October 11, 1968, Apollo 7 sat on the pad at Cape Kennedy Launch Complex 34 – the first and last Apollo mission to use this pad. All the others left from LC-39A or LC-39B. It was a hot day with gentle breezes and the crew ate the traditional astronaut's steak and eggs breakfast. This was not only a morale booster, but a high-protein meal that minimized bowel movements, which is very desirable when one is in a spacesuit.
At 10:02 am EDT, the Saturn IB SA-205 booster roared into life on what proved to be a perfect launch as is slowly cleared the tower. Like its larger sister, Saturn V, the lift off was so smooth that the astronauts had to confirm it on their instrument panels.
At two minutes and 25 seconds, the first stage separated and the S-IVB ignited. Within minutes, the booster and spacecraft were in a 90-minute orbit around the Earth at an altitude between 123 and 163 nm (227 and 301 km). Separation from the S-IVB was not achieved until two hours and 55 minutes into the flight to simulate the time a lunar mission would need.
A frantic three days
Far from getting a moment to rest, the liftoff of Apollo 7 sparked three days of frantic effort intended to cram every priority item into every available second. This was because the CSM had never flown with a crew before and there was no guarantee it wouldn't suddenly turn cranky and force an early mission abort. If that did happen, NASA wanted as much knowledge as possible gathered beforehand that would be needed for Apollo 8.
"In orbit, our time line was rather condensed for the first two days; we were much too busy, in a sense, for a first flight," said Schirra after the flight. "But our intent was to achieve as many objectives as we could so that, if anything went wrong and we had to come down, we could still move ahead to a lunar mission without having to repeat this flight."
The first task was to vent the remaining fuel from the S-IVB booster. After making sure the rocket was stable, Shirra fired the small reaction thrusters on the CSM to move it about 50 ft (15 m) away. He then turned the ship to face the booster as it would if it was going back to collect the Lunar Module. The S-IVB then jettisoned its remaining fuel, so it would be safe to use as a test target for rendezvous maneuvers. This took several attempts with the hydrogen and oxygen being vented separately. Otherwise, they might combine and ignite.
Schirra and Eisele then used the thrusters to head back to the booster, which was equipped with an optical target similar to that used for docking spacecraft today. One of the first things they noticed was that the four panels of the adapter that were supposed to open like flower petals had jammed only partly open. This wasn't a problem for Apollo 7, but if a Lunar Module had been aboard, it would be stuck there. For this reason, on all future flights, these panels were equipped with explosive bolts and jettisoned.
After completing their first approach, the CSM turned off and moved 80 mi (129 km) away, then attempted to reacquire and rendezvous with the S-IVB. It was then supposed to return and make another approach until it came within 70 ft (21 m).
The only problem was that the crew couldn't find it. To reduce weight and allow the crew to simulate a rescue with a disabled Lunar Module, docking radar hadn't been installed and the astronauts were expected to find it by optical instruments and computer.
It turned out that the computer didn't work like in the simulator on Earth. Instead of tracking the target during the four minutes it took to make a calculation, it quit. Sometimes the computer would calculate the position of a landmark on Earth and declare that it was 3,500 ft underwater. This meant that until this was solved, the crew had to rely on chart solutions and the sextant backed up by simply looking out the window.
Worse, the booster couldn't be seen in the dark nor could its navigation lights, so the crew had to make the engine burns without knowing exactly where the target was. Eventually, they did get back to the booster, but it only went to show the limitations of technology.
Test firing the Service Propulsion System (SPS)
More successful was the test firing of the Service Propulsion System (SPS), which is the huge rocket bell sticking out of the back of the Service Module. This was an absolutely vital piece of equipment. Without it, the astronauts would never be able to get back from the Moon after achieving orbit. Therefore, it had to be tested as carefully as a mountaineer's lifeline.
Apollo 7 carried out eight out of eight almost perfect test firings. In contrast to the smooth liftoff of the Saturn, the blast from the service module engine jolted the astronauts. The first kick was so dramatic that Schirra exclaimed, "Yabadabadoo" and Eisele later said, "We didn't quite know what to expect, but we got more than we expected."
In all, the SPS burned from between half a second and 67.6 seconds as it kicked the CSM into different orbits, proving that it was ready for duty.
Other teething problems
Since Apollo 7 was a shakedown cruise, other teething problems with the ship were expected and encountered. One of the three fuel cells ran hot, but the load-sharing hookups between the cells prevented any power shortage. Meanwhile, the batteries in the CM didn't charge as well as they should have. Then there were the noisy fans in the environmental circuits that had to be turned off. The capsule remained cool, but the coolant lines sweated and water collected in puddles.
In addition, three of the five spacecraft windows fogged due to improperly cured sealant compound. Of more concern was that navigational sighting with a telescope and a sextant on any of the 37 preselected Apollo stars was difficult if done too soon after a waste-water dump, which created its own temporary "stars." Eisele reported that unless he could see at least 40 or 50 stars at a time, it was hard to determine what part of the sky he was looking at.
Working and living in space
On a more domestic front, Apollo 7 gave astronauts their first chance to travel in a spacecraft that was actually big enough to move around in rather than wear. Added to that was weightlessness. Though previous flights had experienced zero gravity, this was the first time they could take advantage of it.
"The work is almost zero, and you can move any place you want to very freely, and you certainly don't need strong handholds to take care of it," said Cunningham.
At first, there was fear that the astronauts' moving about in the CM would cause the ship to pitch or roll, but it remained steady throughout. But moving without gravity soon became a habit.
"Later, when we got back down and we were going through the medical tests, one of the doctors asked me to hop on a table," said Eisele. "He put his hand against some pipes, about seven feet off the floor, so I wouldn't hit my head when I got up there. I misunderstood him; I thought he wanted me up on those pipes, which seemed a perfectly normal idea after floating around in a spacecraft."
One area where weightlessness didn't sit well was during sleep. The three men were in top physical condition, but their preparation was compared to training for the Olympics and then lying in bed for 11 days. In weightlessness, the human body tends to curl into a fetal position in sleep, but this led to back aches and cramped muscles that weren't used to so much relaxation.
Also, sleep was always being disrupted by the schedule and the 45-minute "night" – it didn't help that the sleeping bags weren't popular and the men preferred to sleep in their couches with their restraints fastened.
Food had been carried on the very first manned orbital flights, but in most cases it was to see if astronauts could swallow without gravity and to determine what hazards food particles might present. With Apollo 7, crews would now be spending a couple of weeks in space and food was now an absolute physical necessity.
Crammed in the CM lockers were plastic bags containing a selection of meals made of up to 60 food items based on the astronauts' personal preferences. Much of it freeze dried, preparing the meals was made a bit more palatable by having hot water available for the first time, so not only could the food be warmed up as well as reconstituted, but actual (instant) coffee was at hand.
"After the rendezvous we had something to celebrate, and I recall vividly that I treated myself to a plastic bag of hot coffee, which was a high point twice a day for me," said Schirra.
The food was a definite improvement on Mercury and Gemini, but it still had a long way to go. In practical terms, crumbs got everywhere and the drinking water hose trigger stuck during the final two days of the mission. Also, though the crew tried to maintain a diet of 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day, they soon found that the meals were too large, too sweet, and even favorite foods were unpleasant after a while.
Definitely not a popular innovation was the new waste management system for collecting solid body wastes. In fact, waste management was one of the major reasons women didn't fly on US missions until the Space Shuttle. Solid wastes were collected in plastic bags with a finger sleeve insert for "cleansing." These took up to an hour to use and, despite germicides and deodorizers, more hours were needed to eliminate the smell. No wonder the three men only used the bags a total of 12 times during the entire 11 day mission.
Urination was much easier with collection tubes that fed into a container. This was emptied by jettisoning the contents overboard, causing what looked like unpleasant stars to appear around the ship. Needless to say, the practice has since been abandoned.
The crew had a lot of time to look at the Earth and stars during the final days as the frantic pace died down and one of the astronauts always found himself on watch as a safety precaution while the other two slept. Schirra marked off the days on a small metal calendar. 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.
"We had a tracking ship, Mercury, down in that thing, and they sure were rolling and pitching around but they sure did a job," said Eisele." We never missed communicating with them every pass."
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.
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 1970s 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.
Colds in space
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 1960s 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 4.5 lb (2 kg) and took a long time to set up. 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.
- CAPCOM (astronaut Jack Swigert): Roger. Copy.
- SCHIRRA: Roger.
- CAPCOM 1 (astronaut Deke Slayton): Apollo 7, this is CAPCOM number 1.
- SCHIRRA: Roger.
- CAPCOM 1: All we've agreed to do on this is flip it.
- SCHIRRA: (Garbled)... with two commanders, Apollo 7.
- CAPCOM 1: All we have agreed to on this particular pass is to flip the switch on. No other activity is associated with TV; I think we are still obligated to do that.
- SCHIRRA: We do not have the equipment out; we have not had an opportunity to follow setting; we have not eaten at this point. 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.
- CAPCOM (astronaut Deke Slayton): Okay. I think you ought to clearly understand that there is absolutely no experience at all with landing without the helmet on.
- SCHIRRA: And there is no experience with the helmet either on that one.
- CAPCOM: That one we've got a lot of experience with, yes.
- SCHIRRA: If we had an open visor, I might go along with that.
- CAPCOM: Okay. 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.
- SCHIRRA: That's affirmative. I don't think anybody down there has worn the helmets as much as we have.
- CAPCOM: Yes.
- SCHIRRA: We tried them on this morning.
- CAPCOM: Understand that. 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.
- SCHIRRA: Thank you, babe.
- CAPCOM: Over and out.
Return to Earth
On October 22, 1968, after 163 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 computer guided the capsule to the splashdown zone in the North Atlantic Ocean, where it splashed down at 27°32′N 64°04′W at 7:11 a.m EDT after a flight time of 10 days, 20 hours, nine minutes, three seconds.
The Command Module, with some embarrassment, landed upside down, but the airbags in the upper section quickly righted it. Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham were picked up by US Navy divers and taken by helicopter to the aircraft carrier USS Wasp, arriving at 8:20 am EDT. The capsule followed them at 9:03 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. 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.
On to the Moon
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 2007 while undergoing cancer treatment.
Meanwhile, Eisele left NASA in 1972. He went into the US Peace Corps and politics and died of a heart attack at the age of 57 in 1987. The last survivor of the mission, Cunningham, left NASA in 1971 for business and investments.
The Apollo 7 Command Module is currently on display at the Frontiers of Flight Museum located next to Love Field in Dallas, Texas.
But in 1968, it was time to tally up the achievements of Apollo 7. It was the first manned Apollo mission to lift off, the first manned flight since Gemini XII, the first US three-man flight, the first flight of the Block II CSM with a crew, and the first Saturn IB to fly with astronauts aboard.
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. Six days after Apollo 7 landed, the Manned Space Flight Management Council chaired by George Mueller met at the Manned Spacecraft Center and looked over every aspect of the first Moon mission in the light of Apollo 7. After prolonged reviews and investigations, on November 11, 1968, the new NASA administrator, Thomas O. Paine made the go/no-go review.
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 27. Apollo 11 launched six and a half months later.