In October 1968 Donn Eisele flew with fellow astronauts Walt Cunningham and Wally Schirra into Earth orbit in Apollo 7. The first manned mission in the Apollo program and the first manned flight after a fire during a launch pad test killed three astronauts in early 1967, Apollo 7 helped restart NASA’s manned-spaceflight program.
Known to many as a goofy, lighthearted prankster, Eisele worked his way from the U.S. Naval Academy to test pilot school and then into the select ranks of America’s prestigious astronaut corps. He was originally on the crew of Apollo 1 before being replaced due to injury. After that crew died in a horrific fire, Eisele was on the crew selected to return Americans to space. Despite the success of Apollo 7, Eisele never flew in space again, as divorce and a testy crew commander led to the three astronauts being labeled as troublemakers.
Unbeknownst to everyone, after his retirement as a technical assistant for manned spaceflight at NASA’s Langley Research Center in 1972, Eisele wrote in detail about his years in the air force and his time in the Apollo program. Long after his death, Francis French discovered Eisele’s unpublished memoir, and Susie Eisele Black (Donn’s widow) allowed French access to her late husband’s NASA files and personal effects. Readers can now experience an Apollo story they assumed would never be written as well as the story behind its discovery.
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