Astronaut Walter Cunningham Dead At 90


Retired NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham passed away last Tuesday at the age of 90. Selected for NASA’s third astronaut class in 1963, Cunningham went to space on the Apollo 7 mission, which was noted for being the first crewed flight test of the Apollo spacecraft. Before joining NASA, he served as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps and worked as a scientist for the RAND Corporation.

“Walt Cunningham was a fighter pilot, physicist, and an entrepreneur—but, above all, he was an explorer,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “On Apollo 7, the first launch of a crewed Apollo mission, Walt and his crewmates made history, paving the way for the Artemis Generation we see today. NASA will always remember his contributions to our nation’s space program and sends our condolences to the Cunningham family.”

Cunningham retired from NASA in 1971, going on to hold positions with companies including Century Development Corp., Hydrotech Development Company and 3D International. Over the course of his life, he logged more than 4,500 flight hours in 40 different aircraft. He was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, International Space Hall of Fame, Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame, San Diego Air and Space Museum Hall of Fame and Houston Hall of Fame and received awards including NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal and Distinguished Service Medal, AIAA Haley Astronautics Award and UCLA Professional Achievement Award.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. You should mention that he supported the far right and did not believe climate change exists. His stance shapes how people view space exploration today, and those who rattle their medals.

    • John P., how do those two things have any bearing on the great things Mr. Cunningham did for this great country, and aerospace in general?? So you disagree with this guy’s politics and opinions. So what? Highlighting this fact is not necessary in this forum. It has no relevance whatsoever.

      • His personal achievements that glorified himself not withstanding, Cunningham had a very dark side.
        Werner Von Braun, the so-called “father of rocket science”, was also a SS-Sturmbannführer, and his “rocket science” killed and terrorized many thousands.

      • Leave it to the “Left” to emphasize the failings of others–while ignoring the failure of their own ideology.

        Joseph Kennedy–JFKs father, was an anti-Semite and admired Hitler.

        Cunningham voluntarily strapped into a brand-new rocket system for a test flight–and that system went on to make one of the most epic contributions to human knowledge.

        Yet the self-appointed “PC Police” denigrate him for his political beliefs–which differ from their own. I guess those detractors believe that THEY are “centrist”.

    • It must be a difficult to believe that you are enlightened yet always look for a dark and political side to any achievement. And as far as climate change, it is silly to think that it hasn’t happened and will continue to happen since in about 4,500,000,000 years the Earth has gone from a molten rock to the paradise we live in today. It is just as silly to believe that industrialized man, who have existed for just over 200 years, has had anything to do with it or can do anything about it. Commander Cunningham, one of still very few who have viewed Earth from space, witnessed the insignificance of man.

    • As for climate change, he was / is right. There is no actual undisputed evidence of humans causing permanent change to the global climate. Many claims have been disproved by fluid dynamics, his specialty area of physics. You can actually blame the United Nations for openly admitting they pay to block online searches on subjects, and human caused global climate change is one of them.
      He didn’t rattle his medals, they were mentioned here, not by him, he has many more.
      Many ‘theories’ about space are completely wrong. Black Holes and the Big Bang are theories that have become religions. The red shift wasn’t measured correctly. The age of the universe keeps changing based on the goofy idea of a Big Bag and how old the light is we can see, and our sight keeps getting better.
      He was a scientist that questioned and researched an area he had a great deal of knowledge. I doubt anyone here has bothered to take the time to actually research these areas in a competent questioning manner as a physicist and just spews a cults views in a religious manner.

      • PS… the guys at Bell Lab that couldn’t tune out the back ground noise proclaimed to be noise left over from the ‘Big Bang’ was a wild guess that has never been proven.
        I spent many years as a micro wave tech for the military and various other agencies including the FAA. One of my specialties with the FAA was finding interference noise. I was tasked with doing the same thing for the military. (Jingle jingle) that is me rattling my medal awarded for finding a noise issue no one else in the military could. The Bell Lab guys were wrong. The earth is inside a gigantic noise generator. The test to prove this background noise is external to our solar system can not and has not been done. So, claiming that noise is evidence of a Big Bang is a Big Guess.

      • Richard, you are to be commended for using the qualifier “permanent” in relation to human-caused climate drift. Where so many passionate “believers” of all stripes go wrong is allowing their passions to translate uncertainty into absolute.

        Theories by their nature involve guesswork; to “prove” a theory you have to test the guesswork being offered, if you are unable to test it remains a theory and open to reasonable debate. For example, your theory that cosmic background radiation comes from the Earth rather than being residue of the Big Bang is testable, just take the CBR detection instrumentation down into a mine and see what you get.

        • Thus there is no permit ant climate change, As the ice core samples have proven.
          Gas cloud G2 in 2014 was supposed to be ‘eaten’ by sagittarius A (black hole). I predicted nothing would happen, and nothing did happen, because there is no ‘black hole’ as imagined. Instead of examining what actually occurred, they tried to explain it away. Then ignored it. Much like Global Warming turning into ‘Climate Change’… just find some other wild idea to push, ignore the actual observations.
          I didn’t say the earths magnetic field bombarded with energy from the sun was causing the noise, but even that hasn’t been tested outside the earths fields.
          To many things in astronomy are pushed as real… when they are just wildly imagined ideas in an attempt to explain what they may have seen.
          Like a cave man looking at a plane in the sky… what is that.

  2. W. Cunningham was a “man made” climate skeptic not a denier, and had the credentials, education, and investigative experience to back him up. He was one of scores of learned individuals who signed a strong letter to NASA urging the organization to quit and avoid being the mouthpiece for radical and unproven propaganda and stick to their mission and be apolitical. That is not being a radical right wing denier. But the woke children of AvWeb never seem to miss a chance to try and introduce their politics and condescension.

  3. A real shame this thread has turned into a political hole. At least NASA Administrator Nelson kept his remarks to the point. There are not many Apollo astronauts left with us and they deserve our respect for volunteering to put their lives on the line to accomplish a national goal. I could care less about their politics. RIP Mr Cunningham, your work will never be forgotten by those of us who followed the Apollo missions.

  4. Another pilot who lived a more adventurous and potentially much more dangerous life then most, who, like Hoover and Yeagar, lived into his 90’s. Cool….

  5. I’ll have to read his book now. I wonder how it felt to have the Lunar Module Pilot…on a mission which carried no Lunar Module…