Walter Marty "Wally" Schirra Jr. (March 12, 1923 – May 3, 2007), (CAPT, USN), was an American naval aviator and astronaut. He was one of the original seven astronauts chosen for Project Mercury, the first effort by the United States to put humans in space. On October 3, 1962, he flew a six-orbit, nine-hour, Mercury-Atlas 8 mission becoming the fifth American, and ninth human, to travel to space. In the two-man Gemini program, he achieved the first space rendezvous, station-keeping his Gemini 6A spacecraft within 1 foot (30 cm) of the sister Gemini 7 spacecraft in December 1965. In October 1968, he commanded Apollo 7, an 11-day low Earth orbit shakedown test of the three-man Apollo Command/Service Module. He was the first person to go into space three times, and the only person to have flown in Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, logging a total of 295 hours and 15 minutes in space. He retired from the U.S. Navy at the rank of captain and from NASA after his Apollo flight, becoming a consultant to CBS News for its coverage of the subsequent Apollo flights. He joined Walter Cronkite as co-anchor for the seven Moon landing missions.
|Born||Walter Marty Schirra Jr.
March 12, 1923
Hackensack, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||May 3, 2007
La Jolla, California, U.S.
|Naval aviator, test pilot|
|Newark College of Engineering
USNA, B.S. 1945
Time in space
|12d 7h 12m|
|Selection||1959 NASA Group 1|
|Retirement||July 1, 1969|
Early life and educationEdit
Schirra was born on March 12, 1923, in Hackensack, New Jersey, to an aviation family. His paternal grandparents were from Bavaria and Switzerland, and originally of Sardinian ancestry (more specifically from the town of Ghilarza). Schirra's father, Walter M. Schirra Sr., who was born in Philadelphia, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War I, and flew bombing and reconnaissance missions over Germany. After the war he barnstormed at county fairs around New Jersey. Schirra's mother, Florence Shillito (née Leach) Schirra, went along on her husband's barnstorming tours and performed wing walking stunts.:9–11
Schirra grew up in Oradell, New Jersey, where he attended school, and was a First Class in Boy Scout Troop 36. Schirra graduated from Dwight Morrow High School in 1940, and enrolled in the Newark College of Engineering, where he was involved in the Reserve Officer Training Corps and the Sigma Pi fraternity. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Schirra elected to apply to a service academy. Schirra's father encouraged him to apply to West Point, but he decided to enroll in the United States Naval Academy instead. Schirra graduated in 1945 after only 3 years, as the Naval Academy had a wartime accelerated curriculum.:10–13
After graduating from the Naval Academy, Schirra was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy in 1945. Schirra served during the final months of World War II aboard the large cruiser USS Alaska. Following the Japanese surrender, Schirra returned to America, where the USS Alaska was decommissioned. Schirra was stationed in Tsingtao, where he was assigned to the USS Estes. Following his return from China, Schirra began training as a Naval Aviator at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.:16–20
After he completed training, Schirra received his wings in 1948 and joined Fighter Squadron 71 (VF-71) at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. In VF-71, Schirra flew the F8F Bearcat. After several years flying the F8F Schirra attended jet transition training with the F-80 Shooting Star in preparation for his squadron's transition to the jet-powered F9F Panther. Schirra was deployed to the Mediterranean aboard the USS Midway at the outbreak of the Korean War, and volunteered for an exchange program with the U.S. Air Force to get combat experience. Schirra was selected for the exchange, and trained to fly on the F-84 Thunderjet.:21–27
Schirra was initially deployed with the 154th Fighter-Bomber Squadron to Itazuke Air Force Base in Japan, from where he flew missions into South Korea. As U.S. troops pushed north, the squadron was reassigned to a base in Daegu. In the 8 month deployment, Schirra flew 90 combat missions and downed two MiG-15s.:29–32
After completing his tour in Korea, Schirra became a test pilot at Naval Ordnance Test Station China Lake, California (NOTS). At China Lake, he tested various weapons systems, including becoming the first pilot to fly with and fire the Sidewinder missile. Schiraa was assigned to Miramar Naval Air Station to test the newest Navy jet fighter, the F7U Cutlass. Schirra was subsequently assigned to NAS Moffett to begin transition training to the Cutlass, and subsequently the F3H Demon. After a deployment to Asia aboard the USS Lexington and aviation safety training at the University of Southern California, Schirra was accepted to the United States Naval Test Pilot School in 1958.:33–43
Schirra was a member of class 20 at the Naval Test Pilot School, along with future fellow astronauts Jim Lovell and Pete Conrad, where he learned to fly numerous aircraft, including the F4D Skyray, the F11F Tiger, and the F8U Crusader. After graduation, Schirra was assigned as a test pilot at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Schirra learned to fly the F4H Phantom to determine if it could become a carrier-based aircraft.:43–46
In February 1959, Schirra was one of 110 military test pilots selected by their commanding officers as candidates for the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Project Mercury, the first U.S. manned space flight program. Following several rounds of tests, Schirra was selected as one of the original seven American astronauts in April 1959. During the program's development, Schirra's areas of responsibility were the life-support systems and the pressurized flight suit. Additionally, Schirra worked alongside John Glenn in capsule design. Along with Scott Carpenter, Schirra flew in an F-106 Delta Dart chase plane during Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 suborbital mission. Schirra was initially assigned as Deke Slayton's backup for the second orbital Mercury flight, but was replaced with Carpenter when Slayton was grounded, and was scheduled for the third orbital flight.:46, 57–77
At 7:15 AM on October 3, 1962, Schirra lifted off aboard his Mercury flight, named Sigma 7. After a minor trajectory deviation early in flight, Sigma 7 achieved orbit. Once in orbit, Schirra demonstrated manually positioning and maneuvering his spacecraft using a reaction control system. Schirra reported rising suit temperatures, reaching a high of 90°F, before he was able to manually adjust his suit's cooling system. After completing his spacecraft tests, Schirra tested his ability to blindly use controls in a zero-gravity environment. Throughout his mission, Schirra demonstrated the ability to act as abackup to automatic controls and manually fly the spacecraft. After six orbits, Schirra manually aligned his spacecraft over Africa and performed retrofire. Sigma 7 landed 4 miles from the recovery ship, the USS Kearsage, in the central Pacific Ocean. Once Sigma 7 was on deck, Schirra activated the explosive hatch to egress the aircraft. After Schirra returned to the US, he and his family were invited to the Oval Office to meet President Kennedy on October 16.:85–94
At the beginning of the Gemini program, Alan Shepard was originally intended to command Gemini 3 with Tom Stafford, but was replaced by a backup crew after Shepard's diagnosis with Ménière's disease. Schirra and Stafford became the backup crew for the new Gemini 3 crew, Gus Grissom and John Young, and were subsequently scheduled for the Gemini 6 primary crew. Gemini 6 was originally scheduled to perform the first orbital docking with an Agena target vehicle. The Agena vehicle exploded shortly after takeoff on October 25, 1965, while Schirra and Stafford waited in their capsule to lift off. As there was not a replacement Agena available, the mission was redesignated Gemini 6A and would rendezvous with Gemini 7. On December 4, 1965, Gemini 7 lifted off to begin its two week mission. Gemini 6A prepared to launch on December 12, but its engines shut down immediately after ignition. Despite protocols dictating ejecting in the event of an engine shutdown, Schirra chose not to eject himself and Stafford from the capsule. The mission was again delayed, until Gemini 6A lifted off on December 15. After five hours of flight, Gemini 6A successfully rendezvoused with Gemini 7. The two spacecraft maneuvered to within one foot of each other, and kept station for 5 hours. Following the rendezvous, Gemini 6A deorbited on December 16, and was recoverred southeast of Cape Canaveral by the USS Wasp.:157–168:50–76
While on the Gemini mission, Schirra played a Christmas practical joke on the flight controllers by first reporting a mock UFO (implying Santa Claus) sighting, then playing "Jingle Bells" on a four-hole Hohner harmonica he had smuggled on board, accompanied by Stafford on sleigh bells.:165
In mid-1966, Schirra was assigned to command a three-man Apollo crew with Donn F. Eisele and R. Walter Cunningham to make the second manned flight test of the Apollo Command/Service Module, with a mission profile identical to Apollo 1. Schirra argued against a repeat mission, and his crew became the backup crew for Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Schirra's crew conducted tests in the command module on January 26, 1967, and were enroute to Houston the next day when Grissom, White, and Young were killed in a fire during a test. Schirra's crew became the prime crew of the first manned flight. This became Apollo 7 in the program's revised mission numbering plan, and was delayed to the fall of 1968 while safety improvements were made to the Command Module.:180–193
Schirra gained a sense of security from having Guenter Wendt, a McDonnell Aircraft employee, as the pad leader responsible for the spacecraft's launch readiness. But since the Apollo contractor was North American Aviation, Wendt was no longer pad leader. After the Apollo 1 accident, Schirra felt so strongly he wanted none other than Wendt as pad leader for his Apollo flight, that he pulled strings with his boss Deke Slayton and North American's launch operations manager Bastian "Buzz" Hello to hire Wendt as Apollo 7 pad leader. Wendt remained pad leader for the remainder of the Apollo and Skylab programs, and stayed on with NASA into the Space Shuttle program before retiring.:195
Apollo 7 was launched on October 11, 1968, making Schirra the first person to fly in space three times. Prior to launch, Schirra had objected because of high winds, which could have injured the astronauts in the event of an abort within the first minute of the mission. After reaching orbit, the Apollo 7 CSM performed space rendezvous and docking exercises with the S-4B stage to simulate retrieving the Lunar Module. On the second day of the mission, the crew conducted the first live television pictures publicly broadcast from inside a manned spacecraft.:199–203[note 1]
During the mission, Schirra became sick with a head cold, which he passed to Eisele. Anticipating issues with congestion inside of a sealed spacesuit, Schirra proposed to Mission Control that they would not wear their helmets during reentry. Despite a request from Chris Kraft and Deke Slayton to wear helmets during reentry, Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham refused and performed reentry without them. Apollo 7 landed southeast of Bermuda on October 22, 1968.:206–209
Prior to the Apollo 7 launch, Schirra had made the decision to retire after the flight, and left the NASA Astronaut Corps on July 1, 1969. Schirra's last assignment as an astronaut was to conduct the investigation into Neil Armstrong's Lunar Landing Research Vehicle crash.:208,211,216
A combination of pseudoephedrine decongestant with triprolidine antihistamine was the cold medicine carried on board the Apollo missions and prescribed by the flight surgeon. Years later when this became available over the counter as Actifed, the makers of Actifed hired Schirra as a television commercial spokesman, based on the notoriety of his Apollo 7 in-space head cold.:207
During later Apollo missions, he served as a consultant to CBS News, joining Walter Cronkite to co-anchor the network's coverage of the seven Moon landing missions, starting with Apollo 11 (joined by Arthur C. Clarke) and including the ill-fated Apollo 13. He worked for CBS from 1969 to 1975.:221–223
Following his NASA career, Schirra became a president and a director of Regency Investors Incorporated, a major financial complex and worldwide leasing company based in Denver, Colorado. He left Regency Investors to form Environmental Control Company (ECCO), which he was chairman and chief executive officer from 1970 to 1973. The company merged with SERNCO Incorporated in 1973. Schirra started as vice-chairman, but was elected to chairman of the board later that year. Schirra worked to develop an Alaskan oil pipeline. In 1975, he became a director at Johns-Manville Corporation in Denver, Colorado until he resigned in 1978.:218–221
In January 1979, Schirra formed his own firm, Schirra Enterprises, and he worked as a consultant until 1980. Schirra was elected to the Board of Directors of Electromedics Incorporated, Kimberly-Clark, Finalco and Net Air International. He has also served as president of Prometheus, an energy development company in Colorado. In 1984, he and the other surviving Mercury astronauts and Gus Grissom's widow, Betty Grissom, founded the Mercury Seven Foundation to raise money for scholarships for science and engineering students in college. In 1995, the organization was renamed the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
Schirra, along with the rest of the Mercury Seven, co-authored the book 1962 We Seven, detailing the training and development of the Mercury program. Schirra, along with Richard N. Billings, released his autobiography Schirra's Space in 1988.
In 1995 Schirra co-authored the book Wildcats to Tomcats: The Tailhook Navy with Barrett Tillman and fellow Navy Captains Richard L. (Zeke) Cormier, and Phil Wood. It describes five decades of Naval aviation, including accounts from combat tours in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In 2005 Schirra co-authored the book The Real Space Cowboys with Ed Buckbee. The book is an account of the 'Mercury Seven' astronauts. It follows them through the process of selection for the program, their entire careers, and into retirement. Schirra was also a contributor to the 2007 book, In the Shadow of the Moon, which was his final authored work.
Shortly after commissioning, Schirra began dating Josephine Cook "Jo" Fraser of Seattle, Washington, the step-daughter of Admiral James L. Holloway Jr. Schirra and Fraser were married on February 23, 1946.:15 They had two children, Walter M. Schirra III, (b. June 23, 1950), and Suzanne (b. September 29, 1957). Jo Schirra died April 27, 2015 at the age of 91.
Schirra died on May 3, 2007, of a heart attack while undergoing treatment for abdominal cancer at Scripps Green Hospital (currently The Heart Center at Scripps) in La Jolla, California. He was 84 years old. A memorial service for Schirra was held on May 22 at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in California. The ceremony concluded with a three-volley salute and a flyover by three F/A-18s. Schirra was cremated and his ashes were committed to the sea on February 11, 2008. The burial at sea ceremony was held aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and his ashes were released by Commander Lee Axtell, CHC, USN, the command chaplain aboard.
Awards and honorsEdit
Throughout his military career, Schirra received numerous military decorations, including three Air Medals and three NASA Distinguished Service Medals, including one posthumously. He was also awarded with the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Navy Occupation Medal with "ASIA" clasp, the China Service Medal, and the Korean Service Medal. Additionally, he received several international awards, including a Korean Presidential Unit Citation, the United Nations Korea Medal, and the Korean War Service Medal. Schirra has also received civilian aviation awards, the AIAA Award (1963), the Harmon Trophy (1965), the Kitty Hawk Award, and the Golden Key Award.
When Schirra was awarded his Navy Astronaut Wings by Secretary Fred Korth, the Navy was not sure how he should wear it. They were unsure if he should remove his naval aviator wings or display it alongside them. The admirals that thought both should be displayed could not agree on the positions of the two medals. Schirra settled the debate by placing the astronaut wings above his ribbon and the aviator wings below.
Schirra was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for being the commander of Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission. He was also awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for escorting B-29 bombers during the Korean War, a gold star for his Sigma 7 flight, and a second gold star for flying on Gemini 6. Schirra, a fellow of Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP), received the Iven C. Kincheloe Award from the society in 1963, along with the other six Mercury astronauts. He was awarded the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 1962, along with the rest of the Mercury 7. The award was typically given to engineers and inventors, but aviators were awarded this time instead.
He was a fellow in the American Astronautical Society; a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and American Fighter Pilots Association; a 33rd Degree Mason; director of the Rocky Mountain Airways; on the Department of the Interior Advisory Board on National Parks, Historical Sites and Monuments; a member of the Honorary Belgian Consul of Colorado; and Director of Electromedics, Colorado, and Watt County, Nashville, Tennessee.
Schirra received an Honorary Doctorate of Astronautical Engineering from Lafayette College, an Honorary Doctorate of Astronautics from the Newark College of Engineering, and an Honorary D.Sc. from the University of Southern California.
Schirra was inducted into multiple hall of fames: the International Space Hall of Fame (1981), the National Aviation Hall of Fame (1986), the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame (1990), and the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
The USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE-8), a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship named for Schirra, was christened and launched March 8, 2009. A street and a park are named after Schirra in Oradell, New Jersey, and Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania. Walter M. Schirra Elementary School in Old Bridge Township, New Jersey, is named after Schirra.
- Schirra, Wally; Billings, Richard (1988). Schirra's Space. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-792-9.
- "Astronaut Bio: Wally Schirra". Space Educator's Handbook. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
- "Astronauts and the BSA". Fact sheet. Boy Scouts of America. Archived from the original on April 14, 2009. Retrieved May 2, 2007.
- Gray, Tara (2002). "Walter M. Schirra, Jr". 40th Anniversary of the Mercury 7. NASA. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
- Schirra, Walter (1962). "Our Cozy Cocoon". We Seven. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 142–155. ISBN 9781439181034.
- Hodge, John; Kranz, Eugene; Stonesifer, John (1962). "Mission Operations". Results of the third U.S. manned orbital space flight, October 3, 1962. NASA. hdl:2060/19630002114. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
- Stafford, Thomas; Cassutt, Michael (2002). We Have Capture. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 1-58834-070-8.
- Edwards, Owen (December 2005). "The Day Two Astronauts Said They Saw a UFO Wearing a Red Suit". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved July 13, 2015.
- Farmer, Gene; Dora Jane Hamblin (1970). First On the Moon: A Voyage With Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. Boston: Little, Brown and Co. pp. 51–54. ISBN 9783550076602. Library of Congress 76-103950.
- Grahn, Sven. "The Mercury-Atlas-9 slow-scan TV experiment". Space Radio Notes. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
- "Walter Schirra, 1923-2007". NASA. May 3, 2007. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- "Ex-Astronaut Leaves Firm". Detroit Free Press. November 4, 1970. p. 20 – via Newspapers.com.
- "People in Business". The Raleigh Register. Beckley, West Virginia. August 22, 1973. p. 20 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Walter M Schirra". NASA. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- Grey, Dave (October 7, 1983). "Schirra feels space program experience will help K-C". The Oshkosh Northwestern. Oshkosh, Wisconsin. p. 3 – via Newspaperso.com.
- "History". Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. 2013. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
- "U.S. Space Pioneers Speak for Themselves". The Times. Shrevport, Louisiana. November 18, 1962. p. 62.
- Ridgeway, Karen (September 25, 1988). "Allen, astronauts and an anniversary". Rapid City Journal. Rapid City, South Dakota. p. 82.
- "Wildcats to Tomcats: the Tailhook Navy". WorldCat. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- "Schirra's Space". Wally Schirra. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- "About Wally". WallySchirra.com. 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
- Stone, Ken (May 3, 2015). "'Astronaut Wives Club' Member Jo Schirra Dies at 91; Widow of Wally". Times of San Diego. Times of San Diego LLC. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
- Burgess, Colin (2011). Selecting the Mercury Seven. New York: Springer. p. 336. ISBN 9781441984050.
- Goldstein, Richard (May 4, 2007). "Walter M. Schirra Jr., Astronaut, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
- "080211-N-3659B-085". US Navy. February 11, 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
- "Walter M. Schirra, NASA Astronaut". United States Naval Academy. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
- "First Apollo flight crew last to be honored". collectSPACE. October 20, 2008. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
- Edson, Peter (November 16, 1962). "Washington..." Shamokin News-Dispatch. Shamokin, Pennsylvania. p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Walter Marty Schirra". The Hall of Valor Project. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- "Iven C. Kincheloe Recipients". Society of Experimental Test Pilots. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- Warren-Findley, Jannelle (1998). "The Collier as Commemoration: The Project Mercury Astronauts and the Collier Trophy". In Mack, Pamela E. From Engineering Science to Big Science: The NACA and NASA Collier Trophy Research Project Winners. The NASA History Series. Washington, D.C.: NASA History Office, Office of Policy and Plans. p. 165. ISBN 0-16-049640-3. LCCN 97027899. OCLC 37451762. NASA SP-4219. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
- "About Wally". WallySchirra.com. 2018. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
- "Walter "Wally" Marty Schirra, Jr". Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- "Commanded Apollo 7, first manned Apollo flight; only man to fly Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft". New Mexico Museum of Space History. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
- "William [sic] Marty Schirra Jr". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
- "Walter M. Schirra". Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
- Alloway, Kristen (May 2, 2010). "Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon are among 15 inducted into N.J. Hall of Fame". The Star Ledger. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
- "Navy To Christen USNS Wally Schirra". Press release. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
- "Parks and Public Spaces". Government website of the Borough of Oradell, New Jersey. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- Google (December 2, 2017). "Schirra Drive" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
- "Walter M. Schirra Elementary School". www.oldbridgeadmin.org. Archived from the original on August 22, 2010. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
- "The Right Stuff, Full Cast and Crew". IMDb. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- "From the Earth to the Moon, Full Cast and Crew". IMDb. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- "The Astronaut Wives Club, Full Cast and Crew". IMDb. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- Wally Schirra & Richard N. Billings, "Schirra's Space", 1988 ISBN 1-55750-792-9
- Wally Schirra, Richard L. Cormier, and Phillip R. Wood with Barrett Tillman, Wildcats to Tomcats, Phalanx, 1995. ISBN 1-883809-07-X
- Robert Godwin, Ed. "Sigma 7: The NASA Mission Reports", 2003 ISBN 1-894959-01-9
- Robert Godwin, Ed. "Gemini 6: The NASA Mission Reports", 2000 ISBN 1-896522-61-0
- Robert Godwin, Ed. "Apollo 7: The NASA Mission Reports", 2000 ISBN 1-896522-64-5
- Ed Buckbee with Wally Schirra, "The Real Space Cowboys", 2005 ISBN 1-894959-21-3