Donn F. Eisele
Colonel, United States Air Force
of three astronauts who in 1968 successfully flew the first manned flight
of Apollo spacecraft that eventually took man to the Moon. He died of an
apparent heart attack while on a business trip to Japan. He was 57 years
old and lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
During the eleven day mission, the a Major in the Air Force, he sat in the middle couch of the Apollo 7 spacecraft between Captain Walter M. Shirra, Jr. of the Navy and R. Walter Cunningham, a civilian astronaut. They circled the earth every 90 minutes in an egg-shaped orbit ranging from 140 to 183 miles in altitude. Their mission was to check out safety and reliability of the spacecraft and the Saturn 1-B rocket that took them into orbit. Theirs was the first flight after the accident in which three astronauts, Virgil Grissom, Edward M. White and Roger B. Chaffee, were killed on the launch pad in 1967. The success of Apollo 7 brought renewed confidence in our nation's space program. The next mission, Apollo 8, successfully orbited the Moon, as a prelude to the Apollo 11 manned landing there in June 1969.
Described as the most methodical and introspective of the crew of Apollo 7, he was the navigator and, as such, his primary task was to check out the intricate guidance and navigational systems of the craft. The three astronauts became well known for their daily 10-minute television shows from space, and the TV industry subsequently presented them with an Emmy Award.
He was born in Columbus, Ohio, on June 23, 1930. His first name was given to him by his mother who liked Don but who added the second "n" so he wouldn't be confused as as "Donald." He was a high school track star and was proud of the fact that he had entered theUnited States Naval Academy through a competitive examination, rather than by a political appointment.
He subsequently went through Test Pilot School and received a Master of Science degree from the United States Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton, Ohio. He became a project engineer and experimental test pilot at the Air Force Special Weapons Center, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. While still in Test Pilot School, he filed the first of many applications for astronaut training. He finally won appointment in 1963. The Apollo 7 mission was his only space flight. He left the Space Agency shortly afterward, retired from the Air Force as a Colonel in 1972 and became director of the Peace Corps in Thailand.
For the last several years he had been in the financial services industry with Prudential Bache Securities in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
He is buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery and his gravesite is near many of those of other members of the Astronaut Corps.
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 1998
Updated: 10 November 2001 Updated: 27 July 2002 Updated: 21 August 2003 Updated: 27 September 2004 Updated: 3 September 2005
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 28 June 2003