The US Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said that former astronaut Walter Cunningham, who traveled on the Apollo 7 flight in 1968 as part of the first manned mission in the Apollo program that paved the way for 12 others to land on the moon in subsequent years, died on Tuesday at the age of about 90 years.

Cunningham joined his colleagues Walter Schirra and Don Ezell on the successful 11-day mission, which took place in near-Earth orbit as the first manned test flight of the new Apollo spacecraft, which later undertook the journey to the Moon, reports a local Arabic daily quoting Reuters.

The Apollo 7 flight was the resumption of NASA’s lunar space program, 21 months after the fire that killed the three Apollo 1 crew members during a ground launch test in late January 1967.

NASA said Cunningham, who served in the US Navy and Marine Corps and flew 54 missions as a fighter pilot before retiring with the rank of colonel, was selected as an astronaut in 1963.

“Walt Cunningham was a fighter pilot, physicist, and entrepreneur, but above all, he was an explorer,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement announcing the news of his death.

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