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Wally Schirra Was Unique Among Astronauts


Wally Schirra, Jr.

May 4, 2007 — Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Wally Schirra, Jr., pioneering NASA astronaut and former EAA member who passed away Thursday at the age of 84. Schirra is the only astronaut to fly in each of NASA's first three manned space missions-Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. He participated in two very special EAA Oshkosh conventions; 1987 and 1994. Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Deke Slayton, appeared in 1987 as EAA honored the original Mercury astronauts. Seven years later, Schirra was one of 15 Apollo astronauts to appear at the memorable "EAA's Salute to Apollo" honoring the 25th anniversary of the first lunar landing.

Schirra's NASA career began with his selection as one of the original seven Mercury astronauts in 1959. He flew on the fifth Mercury flight in 1962, orbiting the Earth six times. He commanded Gemini 6A in 1965, which flew in formation for five hours with Gemini 7 to establish the first rendezvous of two manned, maneuverable spacecraft.

Schirra also commanded Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo flight. During that 11-day flight in 1968, he and fellow crewmembers Walt Cunningham and Donn Eisele tested the Apollo systems and proved it was ready to take astronauts to the moon.

Schirra recalled his early interest in aviation in a 1994 interview. "Way back, my mother and dad were barnstormers and dad flew in World War I, so aviation was part of my breeding," he said. "I grew up with aviation."

See archival coverage from Sport Aviation: 1987 Mercury Commemoration; 1994 Salute to Apollo; In Their Own Words

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