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Commander Wally Schirra aboard Apollo 7
IMAGE ABOVE: Apollo finally launched October 1968, with an 11 day mission testing out the new spacecraft. Commander Wally Schirra is pictured during the flight.

After the Apollo 1 fire, the spacecraft was re-designed. The new version of the Apollo command module (called a “Block 2”) would be launched with its 3-man crew in October 1968. This would be Apollo 7.

On this flight, astronaut Wally Schirra became the only person to fly the first 3 American spacecraft—Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. On an 11-day mission, Schirra and crew put the new spacecraft through its paces. Despite some unpleasant head colds and flaring tempers, the mission was a success.

The Soviets returned with Soyuz 3, piloted by Georgy Beregovoy, which worked properly and rendezvoused with an uncrewed Soyuz 2, but due to a piloting error failed. (This was kept secret at the time.)

Both the Americans and Russians were back in space following their respective tragedies. But soon the Americans would pull way ahead.