Walter Cunningham was a former astronaut and United States Navy officer. He was born on March 16, 1932, in Creston, Iowa. Cunningham received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1955 and a Master of Science degree in physics from the same institution in 1956.
In 1956, Cunningham joined the United States Navy and became a naval aviator. He served in a variety of roles, including as a test pilot and as an instructor at the Naval Aviation Training Command. In 1963, Cunningham was selected to participate in the United States Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory program, which was later canceled.
In 1967, Cunningham was chosen to be an astronaut as part of the Apollo program. He served as the lunar module pilot on the Apollo 7 mission, which was the first manned mission of the Apollo program and the first manned spacecraft to be launched by the Saturn IB rocket.
The mission was launched on October 11, 1968, and lasted for just over 11 days. Cunningham and his crewmates, Wally Schirra and Donn Eisele, performed several important tasks during the mission, including testing the spacecraft’s systems and performing live television broadcasts from orbit.
After the Apollo 7 mission, Cunningham left NASA and returned to the Navy. He retired from the Navy in 1975 with the rank of Captain. In the years following his retirement, Cunningham worked in the private sector and became involved in various charitable and educational endeavors. He also wrote several books about his experiences as an astronaut, including “The All-American Boys,” which was published in 1977.
In addition to his work as an astronaut and naval officer, Cunningham was also an accomplished musician. He played the piano and the organ, and was a member of the Navy Band during his time in the service.