USA 1968 Apollo 7

Apollo 7 is the first manned test flight of the Apollo spacecraft that began on Oct 11, 1968. Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donn F. Eisele, and Walter Cunningham were carried into earth orbit by a Saturn 1B booster. The flight objectives  included testing the safety and reliability of the various spacecraft systems in preparation for a moon journey. A number of maneuvers were performed, including a rendezvous with a jettisoned second-stage booster rocket.

Apollo 7 launch cover signed by Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele and and Walter Cunningham. Apollo 7 is the first manned Apollo flight and the last use of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 34 (LC-34).
The astronauts also practiced navigation, focusing their telescope on bright stars and using their sextant. They sighted various landmarks on the earth, simulating landing site selectin on the lunar surface, and picked up signals from a dummy moon landing craft on the earth, thus simulating contact with the lunar module.

Established in 1966 by the Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN) to support the Apollo Program, the Merrittt Island Launch Annex (MILA) at Kennedy Space Flight Center (KSFC) provided communications for launches during the first four minutes following launches. Telemetry capability for Cape Canaveral consisted of a chain of antennas stretching from a central station on Merritt Island to several fixed ground stations located downrange. Telemetry stations were located on the Florida mainland, Grand Bahama Island, Antigua and Ascension Islands.

During the flight of 260 hours and 163 orbits, several live telecasts were made from the Apollo spacecraft, giving the viewer a tour of the spacecraft, a look at the astronauts at work, and a glimpse at their view of the earth. Because Apollo 7 was in Earth orbit, television transmissions were limited to the few minutes they were in range of the MSFN tracking stations at Corpus Chisti in Texas and Merritt Island in Florida. These stations were the only ones equipped with early versions of the RCA scan converter, which converted the slow scan TV to US commercial standard (525 line at 30 fps) television. It was the first successful transmission of live television from an American manned spacecraft.

On October 22, after an 11-day trip, the Apollo began its descent. The reentry was automatically controlled by the spacecraft's computerized guidance system. The spacecraft splashed down upside down within 0.3 of a mile (0.5 km) of its target in the Atlantic Ocean. It was soon righted with inflated bags, and within an hour after landing, the astronauts were aboard the carrier Essex. Subsequent medical examinations showed them to be in good condition.

Apollo 7 primary recovery ship USS Essex Beck printed cachet cover.

A rare USS Essex ship's cachet on an Apollo 7 recovery ship cover.