Home » Apollo 7 and the first mutiny in space: all because of a cold

Apollo 7 and the first mutiny in space: all because of a cold

Apollo 7 and the story of the first mutiny in space. All because of a more annoying than normal cold that struck the crew.

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The Apollo missions have entered history: thanks to this program, man was able to get to the Moon. There were several missions of the Apollo Program, among them a very important one was Apollo 7. The mission was the first manned mission of the Program, after the Apollo 1 accident. On that occasion, 21 months earlier, a fire had broken out in the capsule, resulting in the death of all crew members. Apolollo 7, on the other hand, ended with a ‘101 percent’ success and was a mission of firsts. It was the first mission to test lunar equipment, the first with three American astronauts, the first to go on live TV and broadcast pictures from space. To these, add the first insubordination in space. Here, then, the Apollo 7 and the story of the first mutiny in space, accomplice a cold.

Apollo 7 and the story of the first mutiny in space. All because of a more annoying than normal cold that struck the crew.
Apolollo 7’s Saturn IB on the launch pad. Credit: Wikipedia.

The goals of Apollo 7

The Apollo 7 and the story of the first mutiny in space, begins on October 11, 1968 when the engines of the Saturn IB ignited. The mission departed that day from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and ended 11 days later with a ditching in the Atlantic Ocean. This mission was a test mission.

The objective was to test and verify the efficiency of the various components of the mission: the Command and Service Module (CSM), crew performance, support facilities, and the ability to broadcast live from space. More important, the crew members, simulated some maneuvers rendezvous of the spacecraft with the last stage of the Saturn rocket.

This test was very important, in fact, it served to test the approach between the lunar module and the spacecraft. All these tests, would be, then, useful for the subsequent lunar missions that brought the first man on the Moon.

Apollo 7 and the story of the first mutiny in space. All because of a more annoying than normal cold that struck the crew.
Apollo 7 crew training for ditching. Credit: Wikipedia.

An annoying cold in space: Apollo 7 and the story of the first mutiny in space

Apolollo 7 was intended to simulate all the systems and components of the mission. All tests were successful and all systems worked smoothly without any problems. Who had problems, however, was the crew. In fact, about 15 hours after departure Schirra came down with a severe cold and in the following days, the other two astronauts also had a cold.

Like everything that happens on Earth, even a simple cold is different in space. To be exact, a cold in space is much more annoying: mucus accumulates and fills all nasal passages. To remedy this problem and get some relief, the solution is to blow your nose hard, albeit a bit painful for your eardrums. Fortunately, crew members were helped by aspirin and decongestants. This cold, and the resulting discomfort, was the cause of two crew mutinies (or near mutinies).

For a cold: Apollo 7 and the story of the first mutiny in space

A cold: this is where the story of the first mutiny in space starts for Apollo 7. To be precise, there were two insubordinations during this mission. The first, however, failed. The first real problems, in fact, began when the astronauts had to film the first television broadcast from space. On that occasion, the captain insisted on postponing the filming that could distract the crew from their work, already distracted by a cold. On this occasion, however, the astronauts followed orders from the control center.

The first real mutiny occurred on the return from the mission. In fact, upon reentry, the astronauts were supposed to wear helmets. However, a problem arose: how would they blow their noses? Moreover, the strong pressure in their ears could have burst their eardrums. The astronauts, therefore, decided that they would not wear them, while mission control pressed them to use them. The fear was of a sudden loss of pressure that would kill all the astronauts (as happened on Soyuz 11). The crew was adamant and mission control had no choice but to grant the request. The astronauts returned without their helmets.

Apollo 7 and the story of the first mutiny in space. All because of a more annoying than normal cold that struck the crew.
The Apollo command and service module before launch. Credit: Wikipedia.

The background of the two mutinies

Regarding the first insubordination attempt, there are two aspects to consider. The Apollo 7 astronauts were very busy with their tests and, on top of that, they had to keep that pesky cold at bay. Also, they were not prepared to have to recover while working. In fact, the decision to bring the camera into orbit was taken shortly before departure.

However, the crew made seven television broadcasts during the fourth day of flight. And this is the second aspect to be considered. The realization of these images, although of low quality, were an important educational moment that brought many young people closer to the world of space.

In addition, Apollo 7 and the story of the first mutiny in space, have a sequel. In fact, the astronauts’ insubordination did not go unnoticed and the three never flew again. This event, however, opened the door to discussions about the psychological situation of astronauts in space.

Apollo 7 and the story of the first mutiny in space. All because of a more annoying than normal cold that struck the crew.
Walter Schirra watches the rendezvous from the CSM on the 9th day of the mission. Credit: Wikipedia.

The crews of Apollo 7, the protagonists of the story of the first mutiny in space

The protagonists of Apollo 7 and this story of the first mutiny in space are just the main crew and the mission control center. The main crew consisted of Captain Walter Schirra, CSM (Crew Service Module) pilot Donn Eisele and LM (Lunar Module) pilot Walter Cunningham. This was the reserve crew of Apollo 1 and among them only one had already flown in space. Captain Walter Schirra, in fact, had participated in the Mercury-Atlas 8 and Gemini 6 missions.

In the mission control center, capsule communicators (CAPCOM) maintained contact with the astronauts in orbit. The flight directors were Glynn Lunney, Gene Kranz and Gerry Griffin. While, among the various capsule communicators were astronauts Stafford, Young, Cernan, Pogue, Swigert and Evans.

The first three also formed the mission’s backup crew. In contrast, the second three were the support crew. This figure of the support crew (Support Crew) was introduced, for the first time, just with Apollo 7. His job was to carry out the most demanding assignments to lighten the workload of the astronauts.

Apollo 7 and the story of the first mutiny in space. All because of a more annoying than normal cold that struck the crew.
Credit: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The other unforeseen events of the mission

In an already tense and complicated situation, the unwelcoming environment added to the astronauts’ mood. Meals were not the best and the sewage disposal system was still not 100% functional and bad odors kept coming out. In 11 days, the three astronauts used the disposal bags only 12 times in all. Moreover, the astronauts’ work didn’t always go as smoothly as planned. In fact, there were several unforeseen events that affected Apollo 7, not just the story of the first mutiny in space.

On the spacecraft, three fuel cells provided electricity, and one of them began to overheat. Fortunately, the safety load-sharing systems between the cells worked and there were no power shortages. In addition, at some point, the cabin refrigeration system began to leak water which accumulated on the deck. This hiccup was also quickly resolved, by the astronauts sucking up the water with urine hose.

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