Remembering Apollo 7 Astronaut Walt Cunningham (March 16, 1932 – January 3, 2023)
Yesterday, we lost another giant of the Apollo program, Apollo 7 Astronaut Walt Cunningham. I had the good fortune of meeting Walt on many occasions over the years – the first time at a UACC Autograph Show in Houston, Texas in 2000. Then, as always, Walt was funny, gracious, accommodating, and friendly to all.
As he was in the photograph below from the same event posing with members of the Yahoo Astronauts news group I had founded a couple of years prior, with a few familiar faces to the space memorabilia collecting community including (starting 3rd from left) myself, Walt, Steve Hankow (Farthest Reaches), Apollo 14 Astronaut Ed Mitchell, and Gerry Montague (Astronaut Archives), and others.
I would see Walt many more times over the course of the ensuing decades, primarily at various Spacefests, where Walt was always entertaining and engaging.
Walt was never one to shy away from controversy or hold his opinions close. I didn’t always agree with him, but I always appreciated and respected his gregarious and generous nature.
My favorite time with Walt, of course, was the couple of hours I enjoyed with him at his home in August of 2018, where I interviewed him for my “Apollo Reflections” series shorts and feature, pictured below with my Houston videography team at the conclusion of the interview.
The result of that day, “Reflections: Apollo 7 in Pictures and Words”, was released on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 7 launch on October 11, 2018, and features Walt as he reflects on his NASA career, some of his favorite Apollo photographs, and the future of spaceflight.
Not every good story Walt told made it into the film, however, including several he told during set-up while the camera rolled:
Walt may not have been able to accept his Emmy in person, but he eventually got it, and the world got to enjoy Walt for 90 years. I was privileged to be able to spend a small part of his accomplished life with him, and for that, I will always be grateful.
So, thank you, Walt, God speed and ad astra!
– Jeremy Theoret, January 4, 2023