NASA upgraded the Apollo 7 astronauts’ medals to Distinguished Service Citations at an October 2008 ceremony, citing the mission’s success despite arguments with flight controllers. But by then Mr. Cunningham was the only survivor. Major Eisel, who died in 1987, was represented by his widow, Susan Eisel-Black; Captain Schirra, who was killed in 2007 by astronaut Bill Anders.
Mr. Kraft took a compromise position. “We gave you a hard time once, but you certainly survived it and have done very well since then,” he told Mr. Cunningham said in a recorded message. “You’ve done great for yourself, you’ve done great for NASA, and I’m very proud to call you a friend.”
Ronnie Walter Cunningham was born on March 16, 1932 in Creston, Iowa, the oldest of five children. His father, Walter, ran a small construction business. When he was young, his family moved to Venice, California.
He entered the Navy in 1951 and flew Marine fighters in the Korean War. After leaving active service in 1956, he earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in physics from the University of California, Los Angeles. In October 1963, while working at the RAND Corporation and pursuing doctoral-level studies, he was named to NASA’s third crew of astronauts.
After Apollo 7, Mr. Cunningham appointed. Astronaut Pete Conrad succeeded him in 1970. Mr. Cunningham resigned from NASA the following year.
Mr. Cunningham later became a senior executive in financial and real estate companies. In 2012, he joined a group of former astronauts and NASA employees in sending a letter to the agency denouncing what they felt was man-made carbon dioxide as a major factor in global warming.