Apollo 7 was the first manned flight of Project Apollo, scheduled to span 11 days, aimed at qualifying the three-man Command Module spacecraft for the half-million-mile round trip to the Moon.
The Command and Service Module 101 atop a 224-foot-high Saturn IB 205 space vehicle lifted off at 11:03 a.m. EDT,October 11, 1968 from Cape Kennedy’s Launch Complex 34. The launch vehicle generated a liftoff thrust of 1.6 million pounds and inserted its payload into an Earth orbit ranging from 123-by-153 nautical miles. Splashdown was planned to take place at the end of the 164th revolution in the Atlantic Ocean, about 200 nautical miles south southwest of Bermuda.
Tremendous pressure faced the crew of Apollo 7, the first manned flight of the new Block II capsule. Apollo 7 would also be the first test flight of the Saturn IB rocket, Von Braun’s improvised predecessor to the Moon rocket. NASA needed an astronaut Commander who could fly an absolute textbook mission and prove out the new ship and all the concepts embodied in it. They had the perfect man for the job, a man who was also the senior astronaut, a 45-year-old veteran of both Mercury and Gemini flights who had the reputation for flawless, by-the-book spaceflight. NASA would give Apollo 7 to Walter Schirra. Schirra and his crew were to take Apollo 7 on the longest first piloted test flight of any vehicle ever built. Their 11-day mission was to orbit the Earth, keeping their ship in space for the full length of time that it would later take to travel to the Moon, to demonstrate the Command Module’s endurance. Along the way they would complete performance tests of the equipment in the fabulously intricate spacecraft. (Reynolds, pg. 72)