Wally Schirra: 1923 – 2007

By Phil Plait | May 3, 2007 1:19 pm

NASA pioneering astronaut Wally Schirra has died at the age of 84. One of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, he was also a veteran of the Gemini program and was commander of the first Apollo spaceflight (Apollo 7).

More information can be found at SpaceflightNow.


Comments (19)

  1. Jack Hagerty

    Very sad. Wally was my favorite of the original 7 and the only astronaut to fly in all three of the original spacecraft.

    – Jack

  2. NeoGothic

    *Stands at attention and gives a salute* Well done Wally. As pioneer of our species, may he be remembered for a long time to come.

  3. And only Scott Carpenter and John Glenn are left of the Original Seven.

    Godspeed Wally. Smooth Sailing.

  4. We’re all turtles today.

    So long, Wally.

  5. Space Cadet

    With all the crap and all the spin on the crap we hear these days, you hear the word ‘Hero” thrown around a lot. Wally Schirra was a hero. We’re all better for his and the other Space Pioneers’ brave contributions.

  6. Joedog

    My Dad was on board the USS Kearsarge when it recovered Wally Schirra`s
    Mercury capsule. When my Dad passed away my Mom gave me his 8mm home movies of the capsule drifting down on its chute and splashing down in the ocean.
    It also showed Wally getting out of the capsule on the flight deck of the Aircraft Carrier.

  7. Created a short poem today in memory of that most humorous astronaut.

    Now that Wally Schirra is dead
    I still remember the space missions he led
    A greater astronaut cannot follow He never got to the moon
    He passed away
    He’ll get there soon…..

  8. Wally was a remarkable individual and he will be missed.

  9. Joedog, wow. You should really get that digitized and online. I’ll be happy to post it here or on AstronomyBuzz!

  10. Joedog

    I do have it on video tape and it`s pretty raw, but I love having it. If I get it converted to digital I will let you know. By the by congrats on the move to Boulder, currently I am just up the road from you in Santa Rosa…

  11. Jordan: you bet your sweet ass we are.

  12. Mu Draconis

    Farewell, Wally. May the four winds blow you safely home.

  13. SCR

    For the record there was something special about each of the Original Seven. You _could_ sum each up in a line like this :

    1) Virgil “Gus” Grissom, was the only one whose capsule, the ‘Liberty Bell’, sunk on landing. He was killed in the 1967 Apollo 1 fire.

    2) “Deke” Slayton – was the only one who never flew in space. He died from brain cancer in 1993.

    3) Al Shepherd, was the first Mercury astronaut, infact tehfirstAmerican to to fly in space albeit only a sub-orbital shot. He died from leukemia in 1998.

    4) Gordon Cooper, flew the last-ever* Mercury mission. to fly. He died of natural causes (heart problems) in 2004.

    5) Wally Schirra – was the only one who flew Mercury, Gemini & Apollo missions. (It’s a pity they never sent him up in the shuttle to complete the set! 😉 ..)

    6) Scott Carpenter, whose scientific flight – the second to orbit Earth –
    ended in near disaster after running low on fuel, was, probably unfairly, blamed for the flight problems and was the only one never allowed to fly again.


    7) John Glenn, was the first American to orbit our planet.

    Or you _could_ raed thier own words as Schirra was also the nominal author of two books :

    “In 1988, Quinlan Press published Schirra’s memoirs titled Schirra’s Space.
    In 2005, he collaborated on a second book, The Real Space Cowboys with
    author Ed Buckbee.”
    – quote via space.com e-news feature on Schirra’s death :


    But I’m guessing you really _had_ to _know_ them .. to fully understand just what orartehr _who_ we’ve lost.

    (NB. I never got to meet any of them – & I wish I had had the chance too – but that’s my feeling..)

    Moreover, I’m guessing it’ll be a while before we appreciate the magnitude of this loss. Just such a shame human spaceflight has got no further than the Moon since the 1970’s …


    * That is “Last Mercury flight ever” presuming somebody doesn’t re-enact the historic missions in the future – which given the cost, technology and liklely planning & bureacratic obstacles seems most unlikely! 😉

  14. SCR Says: “‘Deke’ Slayton – was the only one who never flew in space. He died from brain cancer in 1993.”

    Actually, Slayton flew in the first US/Soviet joint space mission ASTP (Apollo-Soyuz Test Program) in 1975.

    – Jack

  15. SCR

    &**!!@@##$$ typos!

    Please Bad Astronomer is there really no way you can arrange for us to edit these posts afterwards? :-~

    BY. If I had to name a favourite of the original Seven (& bear in mind I’m just going on what I’ve read. ..) I’d have to say Scott Carpenter -the forgotten outsider who actually focused on the science and who was pretty badly treated after his flight. I think he deserves another chance -if I were running NASA, I’d try to redress the balance by offering him a Glenn-style shuttle flight – & it’d be of good comparion data-set value too! 😉

  16. SCR

    BY = By The Way or BTW …. Agian &^%#$@@!!!!%$##$**@ typos …

  17. SCR

    Jack Hagerty Says: (May 4th, 2007 at 9:33 am or nearly 3 am in Adelaide, Oz!)

    “SCR Says: “‘Deke’ Slayton – was the only one who never flew in space. He died from brain cancer in 1993.” Actually, Slayton flew in the first US/Soviet joint space mission ASTP (Apollo-Soyuz Test Program) in 1975.
    – Jack

    Okay. I didn’t know that (obviously) – thanks. I stand corrected.

  18. Irishscribe

    Every time I read that one of the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo astronauts has passed away, it feels as if part of the world I grew up in has gone dark. Those guys are my heroes, and what they did in the ’60s and early ’70s left an indelible mark on this young boy. Back then, and especially here in Ireland, we lived in a world that was a heck of lot less media-saturated than today. We only had access to two black-and-white TV channels! Shock-horror!!!So whenever I caught a glimpse of a news report about a spaceflight, it was as if I, a mere mortal, was getting a privilaged glimpse through the clouds to see what the Gods of Olympus were doing.
    And now another of them has fallen. I feel sad today, and a little older. It sets me to wondering about what has happened to our world, where these days the term ‘hero’ is passed around like a cheap tin star, and attached to the latest reality TV/sport/entertainment figure to grab a few headlines. But we know what a real hero is, don’t we, those of us who refuse to lie down and live our lives vicarously through the hyped existances of others.
    So long Wally, and God speed. And as we in Ireland like to say, May you be half way to Heaven before the Devil knows you’re dead.

  19. StevoR

    Wally Schirra’s own web site – which has been updated since his death is :


    (hope the link work!)

    It contains a wealth of material, incl. many of his “gotchas” and is well worth a look.

    (My thanks go to Kevin Davey for that alerting me to that site..)


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