Donn F. Eisele ‘48, Astronaut

Donn is the first and only astronaut from Columbus. An Eagle Scout, Eisele competed in Track and Cross Country while at West. Upon graduation, Eisele received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Following graduation he entered the Air Force and became a jet fighter pilot. He entered the US AF Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and in 1960 received a Master of Science degree in Astronautics from the US AF Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. He was assigned as a project engineer and experimental test pilot at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. Eisele was in the third group of astronauts selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in October, 1963. He trained for five years for the Apollo 7 mission. His space flight was the first manned flight in the Apollo series. It followed the tragic fire on Apollo 1, January 27, 1967 that killed astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee. Eisele flew with Navy Capt. Walter M. Schirra Jr. and civilian pilot Walter Cunningham. At 5’7″ and 150 pounds, Eisele was the smallest and least known of the crew. Following his space flight, Donn returned to Columbus in November, 1968. As part of the West Homecoming he appeared on the front steps of West High School to receive accolades from the students and teachers. In 1972 Eisele was named Director of the Peace Corps in Thailand, then worked for Prudential Bache in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In December 1987, he and fellow astronaut Alan Shepard, Jr., traveled to Japan to promote a space camp sponsored by Nippon Steel. While there, Donn suffered a heart attack and died on December 2.