Walter Cunningham

"Walter Cunningham is the second civilian in space."
Travels from TX

With over 35 years of diversified management experience across the government and private sector, Walter Cunningham is perhaps best known as America’s second civilian astronaut. In 1968, he orbited the Earth 163 times as the pilot of Apollo 7, the first manned flight of the Apollo Program. The success of this mission gave NASA the confidence to send the next Apollo crew to orbit the Moon.
Cunningham was born in Creston, Iowa in 1932, but graduated from Venice High School in Venice, California. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in Physics in 1960 and a Master of Arts degree in Physics in 1961 from the University of California. He also attended the Advanced Management Program, Harvard School of Business, in 1974.

Cunningham began his military career in 1951 as a U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot; where he worked his way up the military chain and presently holds the rank of Colonel, UMSMCR, Retired. In total he has logged 4,500 hours of flying time, including 263 hours in space.

Cunningham worked as a scientist for Rand Corporation prior to joining NASA in October 1963. On October 11, 1968, Cunningham occupied the lunar module pilot seat for the eleven-day flight of Apollo 7 which was the first manned flight test of the third generation United States spacecraft. The 263-hour, four-and-a-half million mile shakedown flight was successfully concluded on October 22, 1968. During his eight-year career with NASA, Cunningham contributed to the design, development and testing of all the major operating systems of the Apollo spacecraft. He later became chief of the Skylab astronauts, where he was involved in the design, development and integration of systems for the largest spacecraft, manned or unmanned, ever placed in orbit, including five manned space modules, two launch vehicles and 56 major scientific experiments.

Cunningham left NASA in 1971 to launch a career in private business in Houston, Texas. His business experience includes the presidency of two global engineering companies and an interactive voice response company, as well as vice president of operations for one of the largest commercial property developers in the U.S. In 1979, he formed The Capital Group. Since 1986, he has been the managing general partner of The Genesis Fund, an $18.5 million venture capital pool with a portfolio of 25 start-up and early stage technology companies. He also serves as chairman of the Texas Aerospace Commission.

A civic leader who has earned numerous national and international honors including being inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997; he is also the author of The All American Boys, about the human side of the space program, and host of a radio talk show titled Lift-Off To Logic. Cunningham and his wife reside in Houston, and are the parents of two grown children.