Apollo 7 Television


 

Apollo 7 was equipped with an RCA black and white slow scan TV camera. (Like the Westinghouse Lunar TV camera, it had a resolution of 320 lines and a frame rate of 10 fps.)

Because Apollo 7 was in Earth orbit, television transmissions were limited to the few minutes they were in range of the MSFN tracking stations at Corpus Chisti in Texas and Merritt Island in Florida. These stations were the only ones equipped with early versions of the RCA scan converter, which converted the slow scan TV to US commercial standard (525 line at 30 fps) television.

(Goldstone was in overlap for parts of the transmissions, but did not yet have their scan converter installed. Bill Wood took some photos of the unconverted slow scan TV as seen at Goldstone – see further below.)

The Apollo 7 TV broadcasts were a big hit, and the members of the crew were awarded an Emmy for their pioneering shows.


 

Images from: 1. Bruce Withey, 2. Bill Wood, 3. Dick Nafzger.

New: Slow Scan images from Dick Nafzger further below.


Bruce Withey, who was at Honeysuckle Creek during Apollo 7, has provided images of slow scan TV frames from Apollo 7 TV. They were probably photographs taken of the Fairchild slow scan monitor at either the Merritt Island Launch Area (MILA) or Corpus Christi (TEX) tracking stations.

The comparisons below illustrate the differences between the original slow scan images (at right) and the the best scan converted recordings of the TV available today. This is even more remarkable, given that Bruce’s versions are only photocopies (1968 vintage) of the photos. To be fair, the only known existing recordings are poor quality kinescopes.

A similar, though less dramatic, difference is evident in the Apollo 9 and Apollo 11 scan converted TV.

In each comparison, the lower quality scan converted image is at left. Click on each for larger versions.



SCTV
SSTV

Donn Eisele (centre) and Wally Schirra (right) during the first TV broadcast, on 14th October 1968.
(This was just before the ‘Keep those cards and letters coming in’ sign was held in front of the camera.)


SCTV
SSTV
Donn Eisele (centre) and Wally Schirra (right) during the first TV broadcast.
Shortly afterwards, the camera was moved to show a view of Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans.

SCTV
SSTV
During the second broadcast, on 15th October 1968, Walter Cunningham takes viewers on a tour of the cockpit.

SCTV
SSTV
Donn Eisele (?) floats sideways in this view from the second broadcast.

SCTV
SSTV
During the third broadcast, on 16th October 1968, Walter Cunningham explains how liquids are vented from the spacecraft as Wally Schirra prepares to vacuum up some water which has condensed on cold pipes.

Converted TV screenshots and SSTV scans by Colin Mackellar.

The left hand scan-converted images are screen-shots from the Spacecraft Films excellent Apollo 7 DVD set.
(This video was sourced from the Johnson Space Center.)



Apollo 7 Slow Scan TV as seen at Goldstone

SCTV
GDS SSTV

During the first Apollo 7 TV broadcast, Goldstone Apollo USB Lead engineer Bill Wood photographed the picture on Goldstone’s Fairchild Slow Scan TV monitor (at right).
At this time, Goldstone’s RCA Scan Converter had not yet been installed,
so only the slow scan was seen in station.

Donn Eisele sends greetings “from the lovely Apollo Room high atop everything”.


GDS SSTV

Another of Bill’s photos, taken a moment or two after, was featured in the November 1 1968 MSFN Technical Information Bulletin – sent out to all the tracking stations.

(Other TIBs here.)


GDS SSTV

Another of Bill’s photos taken during the first Apollo 7 TV broadcast.

Donn Eisele is seen here.

With thanks to Bill Wood – May 2007.



Photos of the Apollo 7 slow scan TV preserved by Dick Nafzger

For each of these, a frame of the best known scan-converted kinescope recording of that scene is presented first for comparison.
The slow scan original is below it.


SSTV
SSTV

Near the start of the first Apollo 7 TV broadcast.
NASA photo G-69-2330.

Donn Eisele and Wally Schirra with the famous “Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming in Folks” card.

Walt Cunningham is operating the camera

Medium version, larger version (even larger on request).


SSTV
SSTV

Donn Eisele, towards the end of the first Apollo 7 TV broadcast.
NASA photo G-69-2422.

Medium version, larger version (even larger on request).


SSTV
SSTV

Walt Cunningham (left) and Donn Eisele during the fifth Apollo 7 TV broadcast.

NASA photo 108-KSC-68P-461 / 68-H-974.

Medium version, larger version (even larger on request).

NASA text on the back of the photo.


converted
SSTV

During the third Apollo 7 broadcast, on October 16, 1968, Donn Eisele (hand visible at left) points out the manual attitude control system switches while Walter Cunningham watches.

Slow scan picture received at MILA.

NASA photo 108-KSC-68P-454 / 68-H-967.

Medium version, larger version (even larger on request).

NASA text on the back of the photo.

Dick Nafzger’s photos scanned by Colin Mackellar, May 2011.

 

Back to the main Apollo 7 page.