Schirra, Wally

Schirra, Wally, (Walter Marty Schirra, Jr.), 1923–2007, the only American astronaut to fly in all of NASA's first three manned spaceflight programs, b. Hackensack, N.J., grad. U.S. Naval Academy (1945). His father was a World War I ace, his mother a barnstorming wing-walker, and he began flying at age 13. A Navy pilot, he flew 90 missions in the Korean War, and then became a test pilot. In 1959 he was selected to be one of the Mercury astronauts. Schirra piloted the third U.S. orbital flight on Oct. 3, 1962, circling the earth six times in Sigma 7. One of the developers of the Gemini program, he commanded the Gemini 6 spacecraft that maneuvered (Dec. 15, 1965) to within feet of Gemini 7—the first close rendezvous of manned spacecraft. Schirra was also a key figure in the subsequent Apollo program, and commanded (Oct., 1968) Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo flight. After logging nearly 300 hours in space, he retired (1969) from the navy and worked in the private sector.

See his autobiography (1988) and his The Real Space Cowboys (with E. Buckbee, 1971, repr. 2005).

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