Walter Cunningham and a view of Florida from Apollo 7
caption

Answers from an Apollo Astronaut!

NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham answered your questions!

The first man walked on the Moon in 1969. Before that, NASA had to make a plan. That’s why the U.S. space agency created the Apollo program. On October 11, 1968, it launched the first manned mission of the program. Apollo 7 took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. That was 50 years ago.

On the rocket were three astronauts. They were Walter Schirra, Walter Cunningham, and Donn Eisele. The men tested the spacecraft for 11 days. Walter Cunningham (WC) is the only living member from the mission. He answered questions from News-O-Matic readers.

Lucy, age 8: What did you have to do to become an astronaut?
WC: You have to be serious. My belief is that you have to be willing to stick your neck out. I’ve always been willing to do what I needed to to get ahead.

The most important time that prepared me more than anything else to become an astronaut was becoming a Marine Corps fighter pilot. Also, getting an education. Today, the education is much more important. It’s a different kind of world today.

Aubrey, age 7, wanted to know what it was like to be in space and to be able to see the whole world.
WC: Today, when you’re in space, there’s always an opportunity to look down at the planet that you grew up on. Because they’ve always got a window. During Apollo 7 we had about five windows. But they were not very big.

We only occasionally got an opportunity to look at the ground. But I’ll tell you, from 150 miles, it is different. It’s beautiful.

Quin M. wanted to know what your single favorite memory was from being in space.
WC: We were so busy that it was a couple of days before we could even take some thoughts to ourselves. After a couple days I tried to think a bit about what it meant to me.

And I felt like it was the next step in my career. I always felt like I was doing well. But was I the best? Who knows. So that’s how I felt about it.

Katherine B: Did you like to be in space or did you prefer being on Earth?
WC: We enjoyed being able to float around. But we were very busy. We still enjoyed it because we felt like it was the payoff for what you had been doing for many, many years. That was the best spacecraft that had ever been invented by man up until that point. So we were very satisfied.

Caroline F.: What food did you eat in space? Was it any good?
WC: [laughs] We went through three or four months where we were involved trying to get a particular diet. Something that tasted the best we could get. But in those days we were not able to get any really good food. And some of it was in vacuum-packed little bite-sized things.

I liked the bite-sized bacon bits that we had. Then we also had chocolate pudding, which was not too bad because it had some sweetness in it.

Aubrey, age 8: Did going into space help change how you saw the world?
WC: Some people do wonder if that changed our attitude. I do not remember it changing my opinion about the world in any way.

Sophia O.: Was it hard to say goodbye to everyone on Earth?
WC: We were relieved to have the launch date come up. Believe me, we were breathing a sigh of relief when we were on the launch pad. After all that work and all that time we’d spent. I had been an astronaut for five years. And we felt basically relieved that the count was going on and going down.

Kelly E.: How did you feel when you got to Earth?
WC: That was a big change from what we had done for the last 11 days floating around in orbit. I’ll never forget that the first thing we did was they were starting to give us a physical. And I can remember laying on the table, there, and looking up at the ceiling. And it just seemed so silly that I couldn’t just float up there and be at the ceiling. It took us, I’d say, a couple of hours before it felt normal again.

Owen, age 10: Do you think people will get to Mars one day?
WC: I think that there may be some time when we will go to Mars. Not because men are going to be able to live there. Not because we’re going to have to move off this planet. And I don’t think we’re going to survive as human beings by just going to another planet. My opinion? Not gonna work!

But I think we probably will go to Mars someday. Not when they’re talking about it. Some people are talking about going there in 2024 or by 2035. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

We’re going to have to develop a lot of technology to get ready to do that! And that technology is going to be helping move us forward as human beings. That’s what happened when we went to the Moon.

Brendan, age 12: Are you impressed or are you let down with how far we’ve come in space travel since Apollo?
WC: What have we done since we’ve landed on the Moon? Because many years have gone by.

President Kennedy at the time said, “We’re going to land a man on the Moon in this decade.” That was 10 years. We had never even been in space.

We have, over the years, changed our attitude. We are not as willing to push out against everything. In the last 50 years our society, our culture, it’s becoming much more risk-averse. And everybody focuses a lot on the human risk. Well I can tell you, space is much safer now than it was 50 years ago. And you still have some people who want to stick their neck out. But a lot of people do not.

Since we had Apollo, we’ve been pushing ahead with the unmanned exploration. We’ve got many, many satellites. We’ve had wonderful, unmanned exploration of Mars now.

Marina, age 11: What would you like to see mankind achieve in the next 50 years?
WC: Are we going to continue to push ahead and achieve the things in the next 50 years that we accomplished 50 years ago? That’s very difficult to evaluate.

At the time, it seemed almost normal for us to just push out to the next frontier. In the next 50 years, maybe we will return to that attitude. Or maybe we won’t. It’ll be very expensive. But I think eventually we’ll push those frontiers out. But the attitude has to change on it. And I’m talking about the attitude of our culture. Not just the individuals.

Luke B.: Were you nervous when the rocket ship was taking off?
WC: We started with 30 astronauts. Before we ever flew Apollo we already lost five astronauts. And we were all used to that. And we looked forward to getting ready for that rocket launch. That’s the attitude we had in those days.

If you don’t get an attitude like that, it’s hard for me to see that we will be able to do such things as going to Mars.

We’ve got to have an attitude that says, “Do this.” And it can’t be afraid of getting up ready to go.


Updated October 10, 2018, 5:01 P.M. (ET)
By Russell Kahn (Russ)

Answers from an Apollo Astronaut!

NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham answered your questions!

Walter Cunningham and a view of Florida from Apollo 7

The first man walked on the Moon in 1969. Before that, NASA had to make a plan. That’s why the U.S. space agency created the Apollo program. On October 11, 1968, it launched the first manned mission of the program. Apollo 7 took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. That was 50 years ago.

On the rocket were three astronauts. They were Walter Schirra, Walter Cunningham, and Donn Eisele. The men tested the spacecraft for 11 days. Walter Cunningham (WC) is the only living member from the mission. He answered questions from News-O-Matic readers.

Lucy, age 8: What did you have to do to become an astronaut?
WC: You have to be serious. My belief is that you have to be willing to stick your neck out. I’ve always been willing to do what I needed to to get ahead.

The most important time that prepared me more than anything else to become an astronaut was becoming a Marine Corps fighter pilot. Also, getting an education. Today, the education is much more important. It’s a different kind of world today.

Aubrey, age 7, wanted to know what it was like to be in space and to be able to see the whole world.
WC: Today, when you’re in space, there’s always an opportunity to look down at the planet that you grew up on. Because they’ve always got a window. During Apollo 7 we had about five windows. But they were not very big.

We only occasionally got an opportunity to look at the ground. But I’ll tell you, from 150 miles, it is different. It’s beautiful.

Quin M. wanted to know what your single favorite memory was from being in space.
WC: We were so busy that it was a couple of days before we could even take some thoughts to ourselves. After a couple days I tried to think a bit about what it meant to me.

And I felt like it was the next step in my career. I always felt like I was doing well. But was I the best? Who knows. So that’s how I felt about it.

Katherine B: Did you like to be in space or did you prefer being on Earth?
WC: We enjoyed being able to float around. But we were very busy. We still enjoyed it because we felt like it was the payoff for what you had been doing for many, many years. That was the best spacecraft that had ever been invented by man up until that point. So we were very satisfied.

Caroline F.: What food did you eat in space? Was it any good?
WC: [laughs] We went through three or four months where we were involved trying to get a particular diet. Something that tasted the best we could get. But in those days we were not able to get any really good food. And some of it was in vacuum-packed little bite-sized things.

I liked the bite-sized bacon bits that we had. Then we also had chocolate pudding, which was not too bad because it had some sweetness in it.

Aubrey, age 8: Did going into space help change how you saw the world?
WC: Some people do wonder if that changed our attitude. I do not remember it changing my opinion about the world in any way.

Sophia O.: Was it hard to say goodbye to everyone on Earth?
WC: We were relieved to have the launch date come up. Believe me, we were breathing a sigh of relief when we were on the launch pad. After all that work and all that time we’d spent. I had been an astronaut for five years. And we felt basically relieved that the count was going on and going down.

Kelly E.: How did you feel when you got to Earth?
WC: That was a big change from what we had done for the last 11 days floating around in orbit. I’ll never forget that the first thing we did was they were starting to give us a physical. And I can remember laying on the table, there, and looking up at the ceiling. And it just seemed so silly that I couldn’t just float up there and be at the ceiling. It took us, I’d say, a couple of hours before it felt normal again.

Owen, age 10: Do you think people will get to Mars one day?
WC: I think that there may be some time when we will go to Mars. Not because men are going to be able to live there. Not because we’re going to have to move off this planet. And I don’t think we’re going to survive as human beings by just going to another planet. My opinion? Not gonna work!

But I think we probably will go to Mars someday. Not when they’re talking about it. Some people are talking about going there in 2024 or by 2035. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

We’re going to have to develop a lot of technology to get ready to do that! And that technology is going to be helping move us forward as human beings. That’s what happened when we went to the Moon.

Brendan, age 12: Are you impressed or are you let down with how far we’ve come in space travel since Apollo?
WC: What have we done since we’ve landed on the Moon? Because many years have gone by.

President Kennedy at the time said, “We’re going to land a man on the Moon in this decade.” That was 10 years. We had never even been in space.

We have, over the years, changed our attitude. We are not as willing to push out against everything. In the last 50 years our society, our culture, it’s becoming much more risk-averse. And everybody focuses a lot on the human risk. Well I can tell you, space is much safer now than it was 50 years ago. And you still have some people who want to stick their neck out. But a lot of people do not.

Since we had Apollo, we’ve been pushing ahead with the unmanned exploration. We’ve got many, many satellites. We’ve had wonderful, unmanned exploration of Mars now.

Marina, age 11: What would you like to see mankind achieve in the next 50 years?
WC: Are we going to continue to push ahead and achieve the things in the next 50 years that we accomplished 50 years ago? That’s very difficult to evaluate.

At the time, it seemed almost normal for us to just push out to the next frontier. In the next 50 years, maybe we will return to that attitude. Or maybe we won’t. It’ll be very expensive. But I think eventually we’ll push those frontiers out. But the attitude has to change on it. And I’m talking about the attitude of our culture. Not just the individuals.

Luke B.: Were you nervous when the rocket ship was taking off?
WC: We started with 30 astronauts. Before we ever flew Apollo we already lost five astronauts. And we were all used to that. And we looked forward to getting ready for that rocket launch. That’s the attitude we had in those days.

If you don’t get an attitude like that, it’s hard for me to see that we will be able to do such things as going to Mars.

We’ve got to have an attitude that says, “Do this.” And it can’t be afraid of getting up ready to go.

Updated October 10, 2018, 5:01 P.M. (ET)
By Russell Kahn (Russ)

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