NASA's Last Apollo 7 Astronaut Dies at 90

    Photo: NASA/Getty Images [via NBC News]

    The Facts

    • On Tuesday, NASA announced that Walter Cunningham, the last surviving astronaut from its first successful Apollo 7 mission, has died at the age of 90. According to Cunningham's family, he died “from complications of a fall."

    • The 1968 Apollo 7 mission was an 11-day space flight designed to test the ability of the spacecraft to dock and rendezvous in space.

    The Spin

    Narrative A

    Although the Apollo 7 mission was designed to test the abilities of the Command Service Module (CSM), the mission served a much greater and more immediate social purpose. At the time of the launch, NASA was suffering from low morale amid concerns about the agency's viability and its mission. The success of the flight crew saved the Apollo program — which would see a lunar landing in less than a year — and their efforts will have a lasting impact on human space exploration.

    Narrative B

    While NASA's Apollo missions undoubtedly took considerable strides in the race to conquest outer space, the technological landscape has changed, and it's time NASA does too. Sending humans into space — as the agency's latest Artemis mission intends to continue — is not only a massive expenditure, but it also carries significant risk. With viable alternatives, such as robotic exploration, it may be time to close the chapter on another human moon landing.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 50% chance that NASA will next land astronauts on the Moon by April 2029, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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