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  The Chatter Box : Blathering On
Wally Schirra's last liftoff by intrepid on 4 May 2007 7:42pm
Yeah, one of the original astronauts has died, one who's story went all the way back to project Mercury. Here's what the Associated Press said:

SAN DIEGO - Walter M. “Wally” Schirra Jr., who as one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts combined the Right Stuff — textbook-perfect flying ability and steely nerves — with a pronounced rebellious streak, died Thursday at 84.

He was the only astronaut to fly in all three of NASA’s original manned spaceflight programs: Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. Although he never walked on the moon, Schirra laid some of the groundwork that made the lunar landings possible and won the space race for the United States.

Schirra died of a heart attack at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, said Ruth Chandler Varonfakis, a family friend and spokeswoman for the San Diego Aerospace Museum.

In 1962, the former Navy test pilot became the fifth American in space — behind Alan Shepard, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter — and the third American to orbit the Earth, circling the globe six times in a flight that lasted more than nine hours.

Schirra returned to space in 1965 as commander of Gemini 6. Some 185 miles (300 kilometers) above Earth, he guided his two-man capsule to within a few feet of Gemini 7 in the first rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit.

On his third and final flight, aboard Apollo 7 in 1968, he helped set the stage for the landing of men on the moon during the summer of 1969.

Prankster and professional
An inveterate prankster, he could be grumpy and recalcitrant in space, most famously during his Apollo mission.

But “on Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, he flew all three and did not make a mistake,” said Christopher Kraft, who was Schirra’s Mercury and Gemini flight director and later head of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “He was a consummate test pilot. The job he did on all three was superb.”

President Bush said in a statement Thursday that he and his wife were saddened by the death of “Jolly Wally.”

“His ventures into space furthered our understanding of manned space flight and helped pave the way for mankind’s first journey to the moon,” he said. “Laura and I join Wally’s family and friends and the NASA community in mourning the loss of an American hero.”

Of the Mercury Seven, only Glenn and Carpenter are still alive.

Schirra was named one of the Mercury Seven in 1959. Supremely confident, he sailed through rigorous astronaut training with what one reporter called “the ease of preparing for a family picnic.”

“He was a practical joker, but he was a fine fellow and a fine aviator,” Carpenter recalled Thursday. “He will be sorely missed in our group.”

Roger Launius, a space historian at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, said Schirra “had a personality that was fun and effervescent. He had the gift of gab. He was able to take complex engineering and scientific ideas and translate that to something that was understandable.”

During his Gemini 6 flight in mid-December 1965, Schirra and crewmate Thomas Stafford unnerved Mission Control when they reported, slowly and in deadpan fashion, seeing some kind of UFO consisting of “a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit” — Santa Claus.

Then Schirra and Stafford played “Jingle Bells” on a tiny, smuggled-aboard harmonica and a set of sleigh bells.

Earlier in 1965, Schirra also helped smuggle a corned beef sandwich onto Gemini 3 that Grissom took a few bites of during the flight, according to a NASA history.

“At times he gave us a hard time during his flight; technically what he did was superb,” Kraft said.

Kind of a weird sentence to end the article on... Hope they'll dispense with the harps for once and give him a Hohner instead.
Re: Wally Schirra's last liftoff by Spursfan on 4 May 2007 8:13pm
Love the Santa story! He sounded a lovely man.

I enjoyed the space flights in those days - it was so exciting (though I was only a child).

I was just inches away from John Glenn and others (I was so awestruck at John Glenn my brain couldn't take in the other names but apparently Wally Schirra was one of them!!) at the unveiling of Alan Shepherd's memorial statue.

Here is a site about that day.


Re: Wally Schirra's last liftoff by tucsonmike on 4 May 2007 9:24pm
Yes, he was an amazing man. Rest in Peace Wally.
Re: Wally Schirra's last liftoff by Palin_Lover on 4 May 2007 10:27pm
Awww, how sad. RIP.
Re: Wally Schirra's last liftoff by sighthound on 4 May 2007 10:40pm
Crumbs from the corned beef sandwich floated around the cabin and got into some of the controls. NASA was not amused.

Godspeed, Wally!

P.S. Saw "The Right Stuff" again recently in which Shirra figured prominently. It's really held up well. Good film.
Re: Wally Schirra's last liftoff by kazzzz on 5 May 2007 3:19am
Sad....he sounded ace :)
Re: Wally Schirra's last liftoff by xariesgirl78x on 5 May 2007 3:51am
RIP Wally.
Re: Wally Schirra's last liftoff by canaveralgumby on 5 May 2007 6:27pm
Godspeed, Wally.

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