Apollo Astronauts Dwindle as NASA Celebrates Program’s 50th Anniversary

Apollo 8 crew members William Anders, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell on the carrier after their mission. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

As NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of manned Apollo flights leading to the first moon landing in July 1969, the number of astronauts from the program is slowly dwindling away.

Of the 29 men who flew in the Apollo lunar program, 15 are still alive while 14 others have passed away. When the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs are included, there are 21 Apollo-era astronauts still with us while 17 have died.

Two of the surviving lunar astronauts — Frank Borman and James Lovell — are 90 years old; the rest of them are in their 80’s. Edward Gibson, who flew during the Skylab 4 mission, is the youngest at 81.

Walt Cunningham, 86, is the lone astronaut surviving astronaut from Apollo 7, the first manned flight of the program. The capsule from that successful 11-day Earth orbit test of the command service module splashed down 50 years ago on Monday, Oct. 22.

Cunningham was predeceased by: Donn Eisele, who died at the age of 57 of a heart attack in December 1987; and commander Wally Schirra, who passed away in May 2007 at the age of 84 of a heart attack.

The Apollo 8 and Apollo 9 crews are the only crews with all three members still alive. Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders turned 85 last Wednesday.

Apollo 9 commander James McDivitt is 89 and crew mates David Scott and Russell “Rusty” Schweickart are 86 and 82 years old, respectively. Schweickart will turn 83 on Thursday.

Four of the 12 astronauts who walked on the moon are still with us: Buzz Aldrin, 88, of Apollo 11; Scott, 86, of Apollo 16; Charles Duke, 83, of Apollo 16; and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, 83, of Apollo 17.

The crews of Apollo 12 and Apollo 14 have passed away. The crew of Apollo 1 — Virgil “Gus Grissom, Edward White II and Roger Chaffee — died when a fire swept though their Apollo 1 capsule during a ground test in January 1967.

The table below shows the status of Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz crews.

Apollo 1

Test command service module in Earth orbit; crew died in a flash fire that swept through the command module during a practice countdownVirgil “Gus” GrissomApril 3, 1926January 27, 1967d. 40
Edward White IIOctober 14, 1930January 27, 1967d. 36
Roger ChaffeeFebruary 15, 1935January 27, 1967d. 31
Apollo 7
Oct. 11-22 1968
Test command service module in Earth orbitWally SchirraMarch 12, 1923May 3, 2007d. 84
Donn EiseleJune 23, 1930December 2, 1987d. 57
Walt CunninghamMarch 16, 193286
Apollo 8
Dec. 21-27 1968
First human voyage to the moon; 10 orbits above the lunar surfaceFrank BormanMarch 14, 192890
Jim LovellMarch 25, 192890
Bill AndersOctober 17, 193385
Apollo 9
March 3-13 1969
Test command service module and lunar module in Earth orbitJames A. McDivittJune 10, 192989
David R. ScottJune 6, 193286
Russell L. SchweickartOctober 25, 193582
Apollo 10
May 18-26 1969
Dress rehearsal for first human landing on the moon; lunar module flew within 50,000 feet of lunar surfaceTom StaffordSeptember 17, 193088
John YoungSeptember 24, 1930Jan. 5, 2018d. 87
Eugene CernanMarch 14, 1934Jan. 16, 2017d. 82
Apollo 11
July 16-24 1969
First manned moon landing on Sea of Tranquility; Armstrong and Aldrin spent more than two hours walking on the surfaceNeil ArmstrongAugust 5, 1930August 25, 2012d. 82
Buzz AldrinJanuary 20, 193088
Michael CollinsOctober 31, 193087
Apollo 12
Nov. 14-24 1969
Second manned landing on the moon; recovered part of Surveyor 3 landerCharles “Pete” ConradJune 2, 1930July 8, 1999d. 69
Alan BeanMarch 15, 1932May 26, 2018d. 86
Dick GordonOctober 5, 1929Nov. 6, 2017d. 88
Apollo 13
April 11-17 1970
Landing in Fra Mauro aborted due to explosion in service module oxygen tankJim LovellMarch 25, 192890
Fred HaiseNovember 14, 193384
Jack SwigertAugust 30, 1931December 27, 1982d. 51
Apollo 14
Jan. 31 – Feb. 9, 1971
Exploration of the Fra Mauro formationAlan ShepardNovember 18, 1923July 21, 1998d. 74
Edgar MitchellSeptember 17, 1930February 4, 2016d. 85
Stu RoosaAugust 16, 1933December 12, 1994d. 61
Apollo 15
July 28 – Aug. 7, 1971
Exploration of Hadley Rille; first use of the lunar rover; Worden made first deep space walk to retrieve film from the service moduleDavid ScottJune 6, 193286
James IrwinMarch 17, 1930August 8, 1991d. 61
Al WordenFebruary 7, 193286
Apollo 16
April 16-27 1972
Exploration of Descartes Highlands; Young and Duke spent more than 20 hours walking and driving on the surfaceJohn W. YoungSeptember 24, 1930Jan. 5, 2018d. 87
Charles DukeOctober 3, 193583
Ken MattinglyMarch 17, 193682
Apollo 17
Dec. 7-19 1972
Final manned moon mission; Cernan and Schmitt spent 22 hours outside the lunar module exploring Taurus-Littrow highlandsEugene CernanMarch 14, 1934Jan. 16, 2017d. 82
Harrison SchmittJuly 3, 193583
Ronald EvansNovember 10, 1933April 7, 1990d. 56
Skylab 2
May 25 – June 22 1973
First U.S. space station crew; set new space duration record of 28 days; during launch, Skylab damaged with one solar panel torn off, another trapped against the ship by debris; crew freed the solar panel and spread a parasol over area where micrometeorite/ heat shield had been torn off; astronauts completed many of planned experimentsPete ConradJune 2, 1930July 8, 1999d. 69
Joseph KerwinFebruary 19, 193286
Paul WeitzJuly 25, 1932October 22, 2017d. 85
Skylab 3
July 28 – Sept. 25 1973
Second U.S. space station crew set new space duration record of 59 days; conducted experiments on human body’s adaptation in space, observed sun using powerful space telescopes; placed second shield over parasol to protect stationAlan BeanMarch 15, 1932May 26, 2018d. 86
Owen GarriottNovember 22, 193087
Jack LousmaFebruary 29, 193682
Skylab 4
Nov. 16, 1973 – Feb. 8, 1974

Third and final crew set new duration record of 84 days; continued experiments begun by first two crewsGerald CarrAugust 22, 193286
Edward GibsonNovember 8, 193681
William PogueJanuary 23, 1930March 3, 2014d. 84
Soyuz Test Project
July 15-24 1975

First joint docking of American and Soviet spacecraft in orbit; first and only spaceflight for Deke Slayton, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts who had been grounded due to a heart irregularityTom StaffordSeptember 17, 193088
Vance BrandMay 9, 193187
Deke SlaytonMarch 1, 1924June 13, 1993d. 69

  • duheagle

    Looks like decent odds at least one of these men will see his 100th birthday. It would be even nicer if one or more of these men – particularly the Moonwalkers – could see some much younger Americans take that particular baton from them before they all pass on. I’d say the odds of that happening look increasingly decent too.

  • Bob Redman

    Thank you for updating us on those amazing crews. The mission chart is a very succinct way of showing their dwindling number. It’s hard to believe how many are now in their 90’s.

  • Paul Gillett

    Scott flew on Apollo 15, not 16.

  • windbourne

    well, at this point, it will be either through SpaceX OR Blue Origin.
    It will not be because of NASA.

    Oddly, NASA could be back to the moon before 4 years, but they have become far too complacent and CONgress is far too competitive against private space.