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Astronaut Who Flew On First Apollo Mission Dies

December 3, 1987 GMT

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ Donn F. Eisele, a former astronaut who flew on the first Apollo Earth-orbit voyage in 1968, died of a heart attack while on a business trip in Tokyo. He was 57.

″He had massive coronary,″ his wife, Susan, said from her home here. ″He was in his hotel room. He was dressed in his jogging clothes. He had been out or was about to go out.″

″He was absolutely healthy before this,″ she said of the death Wednesday.

Eisele was in Tokyo to announce the establishment of a ″space camp″ that would give children the chance to learn about space flight. The announcement was to be made today.


James Gertz, a vice president with Prudential Bache Securities and manager of its Bay Colony office here where Eisele worked, said Eisele’s body would be cremated in Tokyo and flown home.

A memorial service will be announced later. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery, Mrs. Eisele said.

Eisele, born in Columbus, Ohio, was in the nation’s third contingent of astronauts, 14 who were selected in 1963.

Eisele, then an Air Force major, orbited the Earth for 11 days in October 1968 in the Apollo 7 spacecraft with Navy Capt. Walter M. Schirra and civilian Walter Cunningham.

It was the first Apollo flight following the deaths of the three Apollo 1 astronauts in a launch pad fire Jan. 27, 1967.

Eisele, Schirra and Cunningham flew a nearly perfect mission. The spacecraft performed so well that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration sent the next crew, Apollo 8, into orbit about the moon, as a prelude to the Apollo 11 manned landing on the moon in July 1969.

The three Apollo 7 astronauts won a special Emmy award for their daily television shows from orbit, during which they clowned around, held up humorous signs and generally educated Earthlings about space flight.

Apollo 7 was Eisele’s only flight. He retired from the Air Force as a colonel and in 1972 became Peace Corps director in Thailand. He has been in the securities business for several years and had worked for Prudential Bache’s Bay Colony office for about a year.

Besides his wife, he is survived by three sons, Donn, Jon and Andrew Eisele; and two daughters, Kristin Eisele and Melinda Germer.