US astronaut Walter Cunningham, the last surviving member of the first Nasa mission to ever broadcast live TV from orbit, has died at the age of 90.

Apollo 7 was an 11-day manned mission in 1968 that tested the ability to dock and rendezvous in space. But the crew also won an Emmy for their broadcast, the BBC reports.

It paved the way for the moon landing by Apollo 11 less than a year later.

Nasa confirmed Cunningham’s death, and said that he was “instrumental to our Moon landing’s program success”.

A family representative said he died at a hospital in Houston on Tuesday from natural causes “after a full and complete life”.

“We would like to express our immense pride in the life that he lived, and our deep gratitude for the man that he was – a patriot, an explorer, pilot, astronaut, husband, brother, and father,” the Cunningham family said in a statement shared by Nasa, the US space agency.

“The world has lost another true hero, and we will miss him dearly.”

Cunningham was born in Creston, Iowa, and went on to earn a masters degree in physics from the University of California in Los Angeles. While working as a civilian at the time, he was one of three astronauts chosen for the first manned spaceflight in the Apollo programme.