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Colonel Donn F. Eisele

Image of Colonel Donn F. Eisele

Colonel Donn F. Eisele

1930 - 1987
Colonel Donn F. Eisele was born in Columbus, Ohio, on June 23, 1930. 

He graduated from West High School, Columbus, Ohio; received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1952 and a Master of Science degree in Astronautics in 1960 from the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Colonel Eisele received the NASA exceptional Service Metal, Air Force Senior Pilot Astronaut Wings, Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross; was co-recipient of the AIAA 1969 Haley Astronautics Award and was presented the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Special Trustees Award in 1969.

He was a project engineer and experimental test pilot at the Air Force Special Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. In this capacity, he flew experimental test flights in support of special weapons development programs and logged more than 4,200 hours flying time—3,600 hours in jet aircraft.

Eisele was one of the third group of astronauts selected by NASA in October 1963 and logged 260 hours in space.

Eisele was one of three astronauts who in 1968 flew the first manned flight of the Apollo spacecraft that eventually took man to the moon.  During the 11-day mission, Mr. Eisele, then a major in the Air Force, joined  Capt. Walter M. Schirra Jr. of the Navy and R. Walter Cunningham, a civilian, on the Apollo 7 spacecraft. 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 the safety and reliability of the spacecraft and the Saturn 1-B rocket that took them into orbit.  The success  of their mission on Apollo 7 brought a renewed sense of confidence to the Apollo moon landing mission and the nation's space program. The next mission, Apollo 8, orbited the moon, as a prelude to the Apollo 11 manned landing on the moon in July 1969.

Eisele was described as the most methodical and introspective of the crew of the Apollo 7. As navigator, his primary task was to check out the intricate guidance and navigation system of the spacecraft.

The three astronauts became well-known for their daily 10-minute television shows from orbit, during which they clowned around, held up humorous signs and generally educated television viewers back on earth about space flight. The television industry presented them with a special Emmy award.

In July 1972, Colonel Eisele retired from the Air Force and left the space program to become Director of the U.S. Peace Corps in Thailand. Upon returning from Thailand, Eisele became Sales Manager for Marion Power Shovel Company, a division of Dresser Industries. Eisele handled private and corporate accounts for the investment firm of Oppenheimer & Company.

Colonel Eisele died on December 2, 1987.