By Jonathan Stroud
Remembered for his light tone and subtle impact, Eisele shares his displeasures with his crewmates and other thoughts regarding the NASA administration in the latest Apollo astronaut memoir.
Hidden in astronaut Donn Eisele’s personal memorabilia, French found Eisele’s never before published papers that discussed his experiences during the Apollo 7 mission. The papers had previously been lost to history in a stored-away box that only Eisele’s widow knew about. With permission from Eisele’s widow, French pieced together the unfinished memoir to tell a side of the Apollo space program that has never been told before.
French told Journalists For Space, “Apollo 7 was vital, but as soon as Apollo 8 flew to the moon, people just kind of forgot about it.”
Eisele flew the first Apollo flight mission in 1967 with Walt Cunningham and Wally Schirra that kick started the chain of events that enabled humans to set foot on the moon.
The memoir sheds light on Eisele’s perspective regarding the stigma of why the Apollo 7 crew would never fly again. He also provides a testimony of the controversial conversations between Wally Schirra and mission control during their orbit around Earth.
Francis continued to tell Journalists For Space, “I did a lot of interviews with both of his wives, everybody that ever flew with him, and I learned a lot about him.
“The book [Apollo Pilot] was written soon after his flight and gives a window into Eisele’s thoughts on why he never flew again, the beauty of what he saw, and what the other astronauts got up to at the Cape. So there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff. When I presented the writings back to Susie [Eisele’s widow], who had the veto on whether it would go any further or not, she said, ‘This is like my late husband is back speaking to me again. This is perfect.’”
Eisele passed away in 1987, but it was not until 2011 when his unpublished memoir was found, bringing to light a fresh perspective on the Apollo mission around Earth and offering another take from early inside the space program.
Eisele wrote about his experiences shortly after the Apollo flight and, to help paint a full picture for the reader, French included a foreword of Eisele’s life leading up to his involvement with Apollo. Remarks from Eisele’s widow regarding his life from the time after the flight until the day he died have been added for additional context. Also included is a historical piece by space historian Amy Shira Teitel which reviews the history and importance of the Apollo Command Module Flight.
Francis reflected, “People forget that this was the very first Apollo spacecraft with people in it, and there can only ever be one. The first thing is a big deal.
“I hope people enjoy it…this isn’t something that you have to be a space geek to really enjoy. It’s not a technical book. It was very much him [Donn Eisele] explaining what it was like to fly in space and also some very human stories of what it was like to be an astronaut at a time when the world was at your feet and you could do anything. Some of these guys did do everything and some of these guys didn’t. What do you do when endless temptations are thrown your way? It’s a very human story in that way. I think people with no real interest in the space program might find it interesting in terms of what happens to a human being when they are put in that very unusual position of going from a nobody to being on the front page of the headlines and everybody clamoring for your attention.”
Proceeds from the book support the reading program at the Broward Library in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where Eisele’s donated Apollo moon rock is currently displayed.
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