Quando Schirra voou era preciso ser realmente especial. Estes homens eram geralmente pilotos - por vezes até pilotos de ensaios - no pico das suas aptidões físicas e psíquicas, e eram submetidos a um treino rigorosíssimo e extremamente exigente. O qual apenas alguns ultrapassavam. Schirra foi um deles.
Fica aqui a minha humilde homenagem a um grande herói dos nossos dias.
Mercury 7 astronaut Wally Schirra dies at 84
He trained at NASA Langley, and a Hampton bridge bears his name.
BY KIM O'BRIEN ROOT
May 4, 2007
Walter M. "Wally" Schirra Jr., one of the last of the original Mercury astronauts, died Thursday at the age of 84.
Capt. Schirra was one of the seven men selected for America's first space program in 1959. As one of the "Mercury Seven," he trained in the early 1960s at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton with astronauts such as John Glenn, Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Alan Shepard.
A New Jersey native, Capt. Schirra died of a heart attack in a hospital in California, where he had lived since 1984.
All seven Mercury astronauts are honored in Hampton - they have bridges named after them. Capt. Schirra's name adorns a bridge on Aberdeen Road that crosses Newmarket Creek between Briarfield Road and Mercury Boulevard.
Capt. Schirra, a former Navy test pilot, was the only man to fly on NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. He was the fifth American in space and the third to orbit the Earth in 1962.
As commander of the first crew to fly into space aboard an Apollo capsule - the 11-day Apollo 7 flight in 1968, Capt. Schirra laid the groundwork for the mission that put two men on the moon on July 20, 1969.
"His record as a pioneering space pilot shows the real stuff of which he was made," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in a news release. "We who have inherited today's space program will always be in his debt."
Of the original seven astronauts, only two - Glenn and Scott Carpenter - are still alive.
Thursday, Carpenter recalled Capt. Schirra as a fine aviator and a practical joker - he reportedly smuggled a corned beef sandwich on his Gemini flight.
Bill Scallion, perhaps the only Langley staff member who can recall the Mercury astronaut's work there, remembered Capt. Schirra as a personable guy who was smart, friendly, and loved a good game of poker.
Capt. Schirra, Grissom and astronaut "Deke" Slayton lived in the Stoneybrook area of Newport News from 1959 to 1962 while training at Langley.
Scallion, who is 83 and still works as an engineer at Langley, worked on simulation missions with the astronauts for about seven months, before they moved from the Hampton center to one in Houston.
When the program would travel to Cape Canaveral in Florida for training, most of the astronauts would fly down on fighter jets, Scallion recalled. But not Capt. Schirra. He and Slayton would fly on a charter plane with the engineers and play poker.
"They were some wild games," Scallion said. "It was really a fun time. They would hardly start the engine before we started playing poker."
Capt. Schirra retired from the Navy and from NASA in 1969 and became a commentator with CBS News, working the Apollo 11 mission with Walter Cronkite. In 1984, he moved to the San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe, serving on corporate boards and as an independent consultant.
Scallion said Thursday that working with the original astronauts was "one of the greatest times I ever had."
"Those people were pioneering," he said. "I'm sad to see Wally go."
Fonte: Daily Press
NASA pioneer Wally Schirra, 84, dies
Astronaut's flights helped lead to moonshot
May 4, 2007
Walter Schirra, the only man to fly all three of NASA's first-generation spaceships, died Thursday from a heart attack in La Jolla, Calif. He was 84.
Schirra's death leaves only two of America's first astronauts, known as the Mercury Seven, still living. The survivors are John Glenn, 85, and Scott Carpenter, 82.
A highly skilled pilot and ebullient practical joker, Schirra commanded the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft in a span of only six years. Schirra, best known as Wally, never set foot on the moon, but his flights were crucial steppingstones in an era when rockets regularly blew up and outer space was an unexplored frontier.
The lives of the Mercury Seven and the space program's early days were chronicled in the book and movie "The Right Stuff." Schirra and the others "were the epitome of the right stuff," said space historian Roger Launius of the National Air and Space Museum. "He was one of the originals."
A native of Hackensack, N.J., Schirra graduated from the Naval Academy and served as a Navy test pilot. That qualified him for the astronaut corps, made up in the early 1960s of military test pilots because of their flying skills and familiarity with danger.
Schirra "had the test-pilot's can-do spirit, and he was willing to sign up for the risks," said Eugene Kranz, a legendary NASA flight director who helped run Schirra's missions.
Schirra became the fifth American in space when, riding in the tiny Mercury capsule, he circled the Earth six times. His textbook-perfect flight helped restore NASA's confidence in the astronaut corps, which took a beating after a troubled Mercury flight by Carpenter four months earlier.
Schirra's 1965 Gemini mission included the first close approach by two U.S. spacecraft, a necessary prelude to the Apollo missions that landed humans on the moon. His flight in 1968, which put the Apollo through a trial run, gave NASA the confidence to send humans to orbit the moon, allowing the U.S. to beat the Soviet Union to lunar orbit.
That Apollo flight was also historic for the bad relations between the astronauts and Mission Control. Plagued by an ambitious to-do list and a bad cold, Schirra snapped at flight controllers and refused to follow some instructions. "I have had it up to here today," he told Mission Control near the end of his flight.
Even in a man known for candor, that level of testiness was unusual.
After leaving NASA, Schirra worked for CBS, appearing with anchor Walter Cronkite as a commentator on the space program. As the first human to suffer a head cold in space, Schirra also became a pitchman for cold remedy Actifed.
Fonte: Spokesman Review