Donn F. Eisele
Donn Fulton Eisele was a United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 test pilot and later a NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 astronaut. He occupied the command module pilot seat during the flight of Apollo 7
Apollo 7
Apollo 7 was the first manned mission in the American Apollo space program, and the first manned US space flight after a cabin fire killed the crew of what was to have been the first manned mission, AS-204 , during a launch pad test in 1967...

 in 1968. After retiring from both NASA and the Air Force, he became the United States Peace Corps country director for Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, before moving into private business.


Born in Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
Columbus is the capital of and the largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio. The broader metropolitan area encompasses several counties and is the third largest in Ohio behind those of Cleveland and Cincinnati. Columbus is the third largest city in the American Midwest, and the fifteenth largest city...

, Eisele graduated from West High School in 1948. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy
United States Naval Academy
The United States Naval Academy is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located in Annapolis, Maryland, United States...

 in 1952 and a Master of Science degree in Astronautics in 1960 from the Air Force Institute of Technology
Air Force Institute of Technology
The Air Force Institute of Technology is a graduate school and provider of professional and continuing education that is part of the United States Air Force. It is located on Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. A component of Air University and Air Education and Training Command, AFIT has been...

, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.


Eisele was a member of Tau Beta Pi
Tau Beta Pi
The Tau Beta Pi Association is the oldest engineering honor society in the United States and the second oldest collegiate honor society in America. It honors engineering students who have shown a history of academic achievement as well as a commitment to personal and professional integrity...

, the National Engineering Society, and a Freemason, belonging to Turner Lodge #732 in Columbus, Ohio.

Special honors

Eisele was an Eagle Scout
Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America)
Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America . A Scout who attains this rank is called an Eagle Scout or Eagle. Since its introduction in 1911, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than 2 million young men...

. Among the honors he received during his career were the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the Air Force Senior Pilot Astronaut Wings, and the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross. He was a 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.

Air Force officer and astronaut

Although he graduated from the United States Naval Academy, Eisele chose a commission in the United States Air Force. The Air Force Academy
United States Air Force Academy
The United States Air Force Academy is an accredited college for the undergraduate education of officer candidates for the United States Air Force. Its campus is located immediately north of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado, United States...

 was still under construction and would not graduate its first class until 1959; thus graduates of the Naval Academy, Military Academy
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

, and Merchant Marine Academy
United States Merchant Marine Academy
The United States Merchant Marine Academy is one of the five United States Service academies...

 were all eligible for Air Force commissions at the time. (Eisele's astronaut colleagues Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin is an American mechanical engineer, retired United States Air Force pilot and astronaut who was the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing in history...

, Michael Collins
Michael Collins (astronaut)
Michael Collins is a former American astronaut and test pilot. Selected as part of the third group of fourteen astronauts in 1963, he flew in space twice. His first spaceflight was Gemini 10, in which he and command pilot John Young performed two rendezvous with different spacecraft and Collins...

, and Ed White
Edward Higgins White
Edward Higgins White, II was an engineer, United States Air Force officer and NASA astronaut. On June 3, 1965, he became the first American to "walk" in space. White died along with fellow astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee during a pre-launch test for the first manned Apollo mission at...

 chose Air Force commissions on graduating from the U.S. Military Academy.)

Eisele was a project engineer and experimental test pilot at the Air Force Special Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB
Kirtland Air Force Base
Kirtland Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located in the southeast quadrant of the Albuquerque, New Mexico urban area, adjacent to the Albuquerque International Sunport. The base was named for the early Army aviator Col. Roy C. Kirtland...

, New Mexico. He flew experimental test flights in support of special weapons development programs.

He logged more than 4,200 hours flying time — 3,600 of those hours in jet aircraft.


Eisele was one of the third group of astronauts selected by NASA in October 1963.

On October 11, 1968, he occupied the Command Module Pilot seat for the eleven-day flight of Apollo 7
Apollo 7
Apollo 7 was the first manned mission in the American Apollo space program, and the first manned US space flight after a cabin fire killed the crew of what was to have been the first manned mission, AS-204 , during a launch pad test in 1967...

 — the first manned flight test of the third generation United States spacecraft. With spacecraft Commander Walter M. Schirra, Jr.
Wally Schirra
Walter Marty Schirra, Jr. was an American test pilot, United States Navy officer, and one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts chosen for the Project Mercury, America's effort to put humans in space. He is the only person to fly in all of America's first three space programs...

 and Lunar Module Pilot Walter Cunningham
Walter Cunningham
Ronnie Walter Cunningham , known as Walt Cunningham, is a retired American astronaut. In 1968, he was the Lunar Module pilot on the Apollo 7 mission...

, Eisele participated in and executed maneuvers enabling the crew to perform exercises in transposition and docking and lunar orbit rendezvous with the S-IVB stage of their Saturn IB
Saturn IB
The Saturn IB was an American launch vehicle commissioned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for use in the Apollo program...

 launch vehicle. They completed eight successful test and maneuvering ignitions of the service module propulsion engine, They also measured the accuracy of performance of all spacecraft systems, and provided the first effective television transmissions of onboard crew activities.

Apollo 7 was placed in an Earth-orbit with an apogee of 153.5 nautical miles (284.3 kilometers) and perigee of 122.6 nautical miles (227.1 km). The 260-hour, four-and-a-half million mile (7.25 Gm) shakedown flight was successfully concluded on October 22, 1968, with splashdown occurring in the Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

, eight miles (15 km) from the carrier Essex
USS Essex (CV-9)
USS Essex was an aircraft carrier, the lead ship of the 24-ship built for the United States Navy during World War II. She was the fourth US Navy ship to bear the name. Commissioned in December 1942, Essex participated in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, earning the...

 (only three-tenths of a mile or 0.6 km from the originally predicted aiming point). Eisele logged 260 hours in space.

Eisele served as backup command module pilot for the 1969 Apollo 10
Apollo 10
Apollo 10 was the fourth manned mission in the American Apollo space program. It was an F type mission—its purpose was to be a "dry run" for the Apollo 11 mission, testing all of the procedures and components of a Moon landing without actually landing on the Moon itself. The mission included the...

 flight. He was excluded from Apollo 13
Apollo 13
Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the American Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon. The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 13:13 CST. The landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the service module upon which the Command...

 for incidents aboard Apollo 7 and for having an extra-marital affair. Eisele resigned from the Astronaut Office in 1970 and became technical assistant for manned spaceflight at the NASA Langley Research Center
Langley Research Center
Langley Research Center is the oldest of NASA's field centers, located in Hampton, Virginia, United States. It directly borders Poquoson, Virginia and Langley Air Force Base...

, a position he occupied until retiring from both NASA and the Air Force in 1972.

Post-NASA career

In July 1972, Eisele became Country Director of the U.S. Peace Corps
Peace Corps
The Peace Corps is an American volunteer program run by the United States Government, as well as a government agency of the same name. The mission of the Peace Corps includes three goals: providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand US culture, and helping...

 in Thailand. Returning from Thailand two years later, he became Sales Manager for the Marion Power Shovel
Marion Power Shovel
Marion Power Shovel Company designed, manufactured and sold steam shovels, excavators and dragline excavators for use in the construction and mining industries....

 Company, a division of Dresser Industries
Dresser Industries
Dresser Industries was a multinational corporation headquartered in Dallas, Texas, United States, which provided a wide range of technology, products, and services used for developing energy and natural resources...

. Eisele then handled private and corporate accounts for the investment firm of Oppenheimer & Company. He also participated in the 1986 Concorde Comet Chase flights out of Miami and New York.

Donn Eisele died at the age of 57 of a heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

 while on a 1987 business trip to Tokyo, Japan, where he was to attend the opening of a new Space Camp
Space Camp
Space Camp may refer to:*SpaceCamp, 1986 movie starring Joaquin Phoenix...

 patterned on the one at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville is a city located primarily in Madison County in the central part of the far northern region of the U.S. state of Alabama. Huntsville is the county seat of Madison County. The city extends west into neighboring Limestone County. Huntsville's population was 180,105 as of the 2010 Census....

. He was survived by his wife Susan, their two children, and his four children from a previous marriage. Eisele was cremated in Japan, and his ashes were buried in Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...



A family-approved account of Donn Eisele's life appears in the 2007 book In the Shadow of the Moon
In the Shadow of the Moon (book)
In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility is a 2007 non-fiction book by space historians Francis French and Colin Burgess...


In the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, Eisele was played by John Mese.

Susan Eisele Black, on behalf of her late husband, donated a sample of a moon rock to Broward County Main Library on October 23, 2007. Broward County Library, located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale is a city in the U.S. state of Florida, on the Atlantic coast. It is the county seat of Broward County. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 165,521. It is a principal city of the South Florida metropolitan area, which was home to 5,564,635 people at the 2010...

, is the only library in the United States to have a real lunar rock on display. The moon rock is exhibited at science museums and schools.

In 2008, NASA posthumously awarded Eisele the NASA Distinguished Service Medal
NASA Distinguished Service Medal
The NASA Distinguished Service Medal is the highest award which may be bestowed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States...

 for his Apollo 7 mission.

External links

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