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RIP Wally Schirra
May 3, 2007 3:23 PM   Subscribe

RIP Wally Schirra, 1923-2007. One of the original Mercury Seven "Right Stuff" astronauts (just two left now), Schirra flew on Sigma 7, Gemini 7, and Apollo 7. From there on, it's stationkeeping.
posted by brownpau (50 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by eriko at 3:28 PM on May 3, 2007


. and hooah.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:30 PM on May 3, 2007


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posted by Thorzdad at 3:31 PM on May 3, 2007


Wally Schirra was simply one of America's best sons.
posted by ericb at 3:33 PM on May 3, 2007


His personal website.
posted by ericb at 3:34 PM on May 3, 2007


They take Sudafed off the shelf and Wally Schirra winds up dead. Conincidence?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:41 PM on May 3, 2007


Crikey. I was just watching we We Have Cleared The Tower last night.
posted by veedubya at 3:41 PM on May 3, 2007


Big, big, big .

Open sky, Wally...
posted by zoogleplex at 3:45 PM on May 3, 2007


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posted by edverb at 3:57 PM on May 3, 2007


I've long had The Right Stuff on my Gotta See list, but I never seem to get around to it. Maybe this is the time to do it.
posted by spock at 4:01 PM on May 3, 2007


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posted by Snyder at 4:06 PM on May 3, 2007


I've long had The Right Stuff on my Gotta See list, but I never seem to get around to it. Maybe this is the time to do it.

Schirra's barely in the movie. Of the seven astronauts, the focus is mainly on Shepard, Grissom, Glenn and Cooper; Carpenter, Schirra and Slayton are essentially spear carriers, IIRC.
posted by mcwetboy at 4:32 PM on May 3, 2007


The Right Stuff is great, but mcwetboy's right.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:39 PM on May 3, 2007


Chuck Yeager's going to outlive them all.
posted by kisch mokusch at 4:50 PM on May 3, 2007


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posted by Mcable at 5:02 PM on May 3, 2007


When you look at the picture of them pulling him out of that old Sigma capsule you can see why they deserve every gram of respect they get, and more.

Look at how small it is, how primative his suit was. Sure, it was bleeding edge technology for 1965, but it wasn't really good enough and every one of those astronauts knew it. Hell, they were all polymath geniuses, and a lot of them were in on the design of the damn things.

Knowing perfectly well that the technology wasn't really up to what they were trying, knowing perfectly well that unpredictable and unknown environmental factors could kill them, and knowing that the entire space program was being done wrong, as a race not a proper exploration program, they still went up in those tinkertoys, and they made them work.

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posted by sotonohito at 5:07 PM on May 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


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posted by mike3k at 5:24 PM on May 3, 2007


RIP, Schirra. Astronauts passing weirds me out for some reason. The day Armstrong goes is going to be really strange.
posted by jonmc at 5:46 PM on May 3, 2007


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posted by cerebus19 at 6:11 PM on May 3, 2007


At NASA-Ames they have the Mercury Redstone 1A capsule that you can check out. It is amazing that people went up in things like it in the 60s. It really looks like something next to the old tube tester in the back of a Radio Shack. Bare wires, toggle switches,

MR-1A was unmanned, but it broke a window when it splash landed.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 6:29 PM on May 3, 2007


Huh, huh, tube testers...
posted by Tube at 6:41 PM on May 3, 2007


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posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:45 PM on May 3, 2007


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posted by gergtreble at 7:01 PM on May 3, 2007


sotonohito's comment is right on. These guys had cast iron balls, and each of them represented the pinnacle of ability in their field.

Good on ya, Wally.
posted by popechunk at 7:20 PM on May 3, 2007


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posted by Smart Dalek at 7:38 PM on May 3, 2007


Call me cynical, but I could count on one finger the number of you who knew this name before today.
posted by rhizome23 at 7:42 PM on May 3, 2007


Call me cynical, but I could count on one finger the number of you who knew this name before today.

You are cynical, and you are wrong. Many people may not have, but there are still many who look back at those who then and now risked their lives for perhaps the greatest of all reasons: to discover.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:50 PM on May 3, 2007


rhizome23, you're just totally wrong about that. I won't call you cynical, I'll call you provincial if you think most of us are young enough or uneducated enough not to know who Wally Schirra is.

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posted by LobsterMitten at 7:56 PM on May 3, 2007


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Wally Schirra never made it to the moon, but he broke trail for those who did.

One day all too soon, not a single person will be alive who walked on the moon. What a sad coda to the "can do" pioneer spirit that made America great. (Yeah, yeah, the whole moon program was cynically designed to show off out missile capabilities, awe the world and confound the Soviets. But we could have made it mean something real and lasting, and we failed.)
posted by orthogonality at 8:11 PM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I stumbled into the aerospace industry by accident, a grad student fleeing academia at a time when jobs in my field were scarce. When I was young I was smitten by space, but had grown up and left behind my dreams. Having now fulfilled them, albeit in half-measure, is thrilling beyond belief.

And then I remember what the seven men of Astronaut Group 1 did and think, damn, how small my achievement and how amazing and wonderful and terribly frightening their deeds.

Gus, Deke, Alan, Gordo, and now Wally -- godspeed and god bless.

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posted by sgranade at 8:13 PM on May 3, 2007


What Orthogonality said. Once more with feeling.

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posted by Zinger at 8:53 PM on May 3, 2007


Godspeed.

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posted by moonbird at 9:17 PM on May 3, 2007


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posted by longsleeves at 9:29 PM on May 3, 2007


Schirra's barely in the movie.

Well, it was a book, first, which wasn't edited for running time. The movie is good at evoking the era and a fine viewing experience, but the book is actually a masterpiece of its era and genre. Tom Wolfe, doncha know.
posted by dhartung at 9:34 PM on May 3, 2007


rhizome23, you're wrong.

RIP Wally Schirra - you're a hero in my book.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:53 PM on May 3, 2007


Yeah, The Right Stuff, the book, is genius, both a great story, and at times amazingly funny, as I remember (it's been ages since I read it).
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:58 PM on May 3, 2007


rhizome23 I'm a space freak. I know the names of all the original US astronauts, and I can usually remember quite a bit about the missions they flew. Can't speak for anyone else of course, but I'll bet that I'm far from the only one here who knows all the names and what they did.
posted by sotonohito at 3:48 AM on May 4, 2007


I grew up in the sixties when every manned launch was a major news event. I can't believe there are only two of the original seven astronauts left; they are the sort of legendary figures I just figured would kinda be around forever. This atheist seconds all the "godspeed" comments.

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posted by TedW at 3:51 AM on May 4, 2007


rhizome23: Yeah, it's cynical, and yeah, you're right that a lot of people probably didn't know or remember who he was until he passed. But you know what? To the people that did know who he was, and the others before him, we worship the ground those men walked on and aspire to lead lives as great as theirs.
posted by tgrundke at 5:12 AM on May 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't believe there are only two of the original seven astronauts left

And the last two are in their 80s. John Glenn, born 1921, the third American in space, probably will be next to go, leaving Malcolm Carpenter, born 1925, the fourth American in space, as the last Mercury astronaut alive.

It's been almost 50 years since Sputnik.
posted by pracowity at 5:32 AM on May 4, 2007


rhizome23: Not to snark, but I remember Schirra (and Slayton, Grissom, Carpenter, among others). But then, I'm old, and have a dad who worked on the LEM. Yet I do understand your cynicism. My older brother used to joke about Apollo 13. He was talking with some twenty-something "kids" and they said something like, "Yeah, I remember that." Meaning the movie.

Anyway... Ditto what sotonohito said. Goodbye to a real hero.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:35 AM on May 4, 2007


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posted by seawallrunner at 8:15 AM on May 4, 2007



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What sotonohito said.
posted by wrapper at 8:45 AM on May 4, 2007



Thanks Wally.
*tips hat*

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(and yes I knew who he was before his passing, but if his passing serves to educate a few more about this period of exploration in world history, he has provided one more service.)

And read the book before seeing the movie (Right Stuff.) From what I understand Wolfe had far more material than was put into the book - he continued into the Apollo program. I have no idea if that is true or not, but if it is anything like the material in the book I wish it would be published.
posted by fluffycreature at 10:54 AM on May 4, 2007


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posted by languagehat at 2:19 PM on May 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


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I remember the launch, in glorious snowy black-and-white.
posted by pemungkah at 3:08 PM on May 4, 2007


Time to put another leaf in the table, Yuri.

Still, I bet it's good to welcome home a comrade who got the chance to be an old man.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:53 PM on May 4, 2007


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posted by saladpants at 11:11 PM on May 4, 2007


Apollo 7 launched on my birthday. This was the shakedown cruise, to prove that the damn thing worked. Test pilots? The Apollo 7 crew were the test pilots FOR the test pilots. Wally, Eisele and Cunningham were the bad-asses among the bad-asses, the steely-eyed missile men.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:40 PM on May 4, 2007


Add me as another person who knew who Schirra was. I wasn't alive for his first flight, but I do remember him as one of the news commentators with Cronkite on the later Apollo missions.

Hope there's a corned beef sandwich waiting for him.
posted by quartzcity at 8:57 PM on May 5, 2007


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