FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. -- Donn Fulton Eisele, 57, an Apollo moon program astronaut who went on to serve as director of the Peace Corps in Thailand, died Dec. 1 in Tokyo after an apparent heart attack. He had business interests in Japan.
He had served as a crew member on the first shakedown flight of an Apollo moonship in Earth orbit. The flight of Apollo 7 in 1968 put America's moon program back on track after a launch pad fire Jan. 27, 1967, that claimed the lives of three astronauts originally set to make the pioneering flight.
Mr. Eisele, commander Walter Schirra and Walter Cunningham blasted off atop a Saturn 1B rocket on Oct. 11, 1968, for the 11-day mission that took them around the world 163 times. The new Apollo command module, redesigned to prevent accidents like the disastrous fire that destroyed the first Apollo, performed well throughout extensive tests of its big maneuvering rocket, electrical and navigational systems.
A series of live television pictures beamed down from orbit showed the astronauts their lighter side and earned an Emmy Award. Apollo 7 splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean on Oct. 22 to end the first test flight of America's moon ship.
Mr. Eisele was born in Columbus, Ohio. He was a 1952 graduate of the U.S Naval Academy at Annapolis and earned a master's degree in astronautics in 1960 from the Air Force Institute of Technology.
After graduation from the Naval Academy, Mr. Eisele joined the Air Force. He was a project engineer and experimental test pilot at the Air Force Special Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
At Kirtland, he flew experimental and developmental test flights in jet aircraft to support special weapons programs. In October 1963, he was selected by NASA as an astronaut. He later was named senior pilot for the second Apollo mission, which was later canceled.
He then was named to the backup crew for the first Apollo flight and after the launch pad fire, he was assigned as pilot for Apollo 7, which became the first manned Apollo flight under a new numbering system.
In May 1970, Mr. Eisele transferred to the space agency's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., to serve as a consultant. He resigned from NASA in 1972 to become director of the Peace Corps in Thailand. After returning to the United States, he became sales manager for Marion Power Shovel Co. and later moved on to the investment firm of Oppenheimer & Co.
Survivors include his wife Susan and their children, Kristin and Andrew, all of the home in Fort Lauderdale. He also had four children by a previous marriage that ended in divorce.