[sarex] Veteran Astronaut Walter Schirra Dies
azrowe80 at verizon.net
Thu May 3 10:57:43 PDT 2007
NASA News wrote:
> May 3, 2007
> David Mould
> Headquarters, Washington
> RELEASE: 07-100
> VETERAN ASTRONAUT WALTER SCHIRRA DIES
> LA JOLLA, Calif. - Pioneering astronaut Walter "Wally" Schirra, the
> only man who flew in all three of America's first human space
> projects - Mercury, Gemini and Apollo - died Wednesday night. He was
> 84. Schirra's family reported he died of natural causes.
> Schirra was one of America's original seven astronauts, selected in
> 1959, and was commander of the first crew to fly into space aboard an
> Apollo capsule, Apollo 7, following the tragic launchpad fire that
> claimed the lives of the crew of Apollo 1.
> "With the passing of Wally Schirra, we at NASA note with sorrow the
> loss of yet another of the pioneers of human spaceflight," NASA
> Administrator Michael Griffin said. "As a Mercury astronaut, Wally
> was a member of the first group of astronauts to be selected, often
> referred to as the Original Seven."
> Schirra's first space flight was piloting the fifth Mercury mission on
> Oct. 3, 1962, orbiting Earth six times in 9 hours and 13 minutes.
> During the flight he took hundreds of photos of Earth and space
> phenomena. Schirra's capsule, Sigma 7, splashed down only 5 miles
> from the recovery carrier.
> As commander of Gemini 6-A, which launched on Dec. 15, 1965, Schirra
> flew with astronaut Tom Stafford on a mission that included the first
> rendezvous of two manned, maneuverable spacecraft. Gemini 6-A and
> Gemini 7 flew in formation for five hours, as close as one foot to
> one another.
> During his 11-day Apollo 7 flight, which began Oct. 11, 1968, he and
> fellow crewmembers Walt Cunningham and Donn Eisele tested the Apollo
> systems and proved Apollo was ready to take astronauts to the moon.
> "We shared a common dream to test the limits of man's imagination and
> daring," Schirra wrote of America's early astronauts. "Those early
> pioneering flights of Mercury, the performances of Gemini and the
> trips to the moon established us once and for all as what I like to
> call a spacefaring nation. Like England, Spain and Portugal crossing
> the seas in search of their nations' greatness, so we reached for the
> skies and ennobled our nation."
> Schirra retired from the Navy as a captain and from NASA in 1969 and
> became a commentator with CBS News. His enthusiasm and knowledge of
> the space program coupled with his charismatic on-the-air presence
> made him an even more widely known national and international figure.
> He complemented CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite and the two became a
> powerful space-coverage team. Schirra worked for CBS from 1969 to
> 1975. He also engaged in a range of business activities and in 1979
> formed his own consultant company, Schirra Enterprises.
> Walter M. Schirra, Jr., was born in Hackensack, N.J., on March 12,
> 1923. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1945, and from
> Naval Flight Training at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla., in 1947.
> After service as a carrier-based fighter pilot and operations
> officer, he attended the Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River,
> Md. During the Korean War he flew F-86 Sabres under an exchange
> program with the Air Force.
> Schirra was chosen as one of the original "Mercury Seven" from among
> 110 selected test pilots from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps
> after exhaustive physical and psychological examinations.
> Known for lively storytelling and practical jokes, one of his
> best-known anecdotes from astronaut training came when he and the
> others were continually being examined and subjected to demands for
> samples of body fluids. When one nurse insisted he provide a urine
> sample, Schirra reportedly filled a 5-gallon jug with warm water,
> detergent and iodine and left it on her desk.
> "Levity makes life a lot easier," he once told a Houston reporter.
> Griffin noted that "It was impossible to know Wally, even to meet him,
> without realizing at once that he was a man who relished the lighter
> side of life, the puns and jokes and pranks that can enliven a
> gathering. But this was a distraction from the true nature of the
> man. His record as a pioneering space pilot shows the real stuff of
> which he was made. We who have inherited today's space program will
> always be in his debt."
> The Mercury Seven trained initially at NASA's Langley Research Center
> in Hampton, Va. In 1961 they moved to the newly established Manned
> Spacecraft Center (now the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center) near
> Schirra's Sigma 7 mission was called "the perfect flight" by space
> reporter and author Howard Benedict. After Schirra's splashdown near
> the carrier USS Kearsarge near Midway Island in the Pacific, he
> pronounced himself "healthy as a bear" and "happy as a lark."
> Schirra's Gemini flight with Stafford was something of an
> improvisation. They had been scheduled to rendezvous in orbit with an
> unmanned Agena to be launched 90 minutes before the Gemini liftoff.
> But six minutes after the Atlas-Agena left the pad it exploded, and
> the Gemini 6-A launch was postponed.
> Eventually it was decided to use Gemini 7 as a rendezvous target for
> Gemini 6-A. Both were to be launched from Pad 19 at Cape Canaveral,
> so a record turnaround of the launch pad was necessary. Working
> around the clock, crews got the pad ready in just eight days after
> the Gemini 7 liftoff.
> The Gemini 6-A countdown reached zero on Dec. 12, 1965, and the rocket
> engines ignited - then shut down. The two astronauts had to wait
> almost half an hour atop the fueled rocket before getting out of the
> capsule. The problem turned out to be minor, the failure of an
> electrical connection.
> Three days later, Gemini 6-A was launched without a hitch. The mission
> proved the spacecraft could be readily maneuvered. It was an
> encouraging development in the race to reach the moon.
> By the launch of Apollo 7 in October 1968, the moon landing seemed to
> be coming within reach. The success of the flight proved that it was.
> Accomplishments of the mission commanded by Schirra resulted in the
> next flight, Apollo 8, being sent around the moon.
> Apollo 7 had not been all smooth sailing. All three astronauts had
> colds. Schirra was occasionally firm in rejecting requests from the
> ground to insert additional events in the already-crowded flight
> "Television will be delayed, without any further discussion, until
> after the rendezvous" (with a spent rocket stage), he said. He
> subsequently was even more critical of efforts to add events to the
> flight plan. Eventually the almost daily television transmissions
> from Apollo 7 became popular mainstays of the mission coverage.
> Schirra subsequently apologized for the tone of some of his
> criticisms, though not for their content.
> After leaving NASA, he participated in a number of television
> presentations and films, and served as national spokesman for several
> organizations and companies. He also held numerous directorships for
> a variety of businesses, in addition to his consulting work. He also
> wrote two books, "We Seven" published in 1960 and "Schirra's Space"
> published in 1988.
> Schirra's military awards included the Navy Distinguished Service
> Medal, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Air Medals, two NASA
> Distinguished Service Medals, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and
> the Philippines Legion of Honor.
> He was awarded honorary doctorates by several institutions of higher
> He was active in a number of organizations. He was on the Advisory
> Committee of the Oceans Foundations, the Advisory Board/Council of
> U.S. National Parks, the Advisory Board of International "Up With
> People" and was a founding member and director of the Mercury Seven
> He also was a director of the San Diego Aerospace Museum, a trustee of
> the Scripps Aquarium, and a member of the International Council of
> the Salk Institute.
> Schirra lived in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Survivors include his wife
> Josephine, his daughter Suzanne and son Walter Schirra III.
> Images and video from Schirra's years with NASA can be seen at:
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