Time, 1 November 1968, pg. 59
This famous photograph of the SIVB stage over Cape Kennedy illustrates the major objective of the Apollo 7 mission which was to rendezvous, without benefit of radar, with the expended second stage of their Saturn booster (SIVB).
The S-IVB remained attached to the CSM for about one-and-a-half orbits until separation. Schirra fired the CSM’s small rockets to pull 50 feet ahead of the S-IVB, then turned the spacecraft around to simulate rendezvous and docking, as would be necessary to extract a Lunar Module (LM) for future Moon landings. In the last mile, closing maneuvers were made by eyeballing the target.
Here, the Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) on the rocket’s second stage opens like a giant flower during Apollo 7’s simulated docking. The photograph was taken at an altitude of about 125 nautical miles. The distance between the spacecraft and the expended Saturn SIVB stage is approximately 100 feet. Behind the open Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter panels of the SIVB is the Gulf of Mexico. The panels had not fully deployed, which would have been problematic on a mission that carried a LM, but the panels would be jettisoned explosively on future flights.
“Probably my favorite picture is of Cape Canaveral shown through the petals of the SIV-B, Cunningham took the picture but I had to fly the Apollo Command Module to get in position so he could sight down between the petals and see Cape Canaveral in the background.”
—Walter Schirra (Schick and Van Haaften, pg. 89)
From the mission transcript when the photograph was taken:
We’re looking right down at the Cape. We can get a picture of it in the background.
003:15:40 Stafford (Mission Control):
Roger. You got a picture of them over the Cape in the background.
The Cape’s not clear.
Now it’s starting to clear. [Pause.]
Roger. You on top of the booster this time, Wally?
You on top of the booster?
[Garble] we got some real great stuff here.
Good show. Okay. In about a minute, the booster should start its retrograde maneuver.
The booster is - engine is set up facing down toward the Atlantic Ocean - to straight down. We’re pointing straight down.