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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Walter Schirra: 1923-2007 
Thursday, May 3rd, 2007 | 02:07 pm [commentary, news]
Steve
I just read that Walter Schirra, one of the Mercury Seven, passed away of a heart attack earlier today at a hospital in San Diego.  There's a proper obituary here.

Wally was the fifth American in space and the third, after John Glenn and Scott Carpenter, to orbit the Earth.  His Mercury flight was in October of 1962; three years later he commanded Gemini 6 as it docked with Gemini 7 in orbit, the first ever orbital rendevouz between two spacecraft.  In 1968 he flew in space for a third time and orbited the Earth for 11 days as commander of Apollo 7 — the first space mission of the Apollo program, and the first NASA launch since the capsule fire that killed Ed White, Roger Chafee, and Wally's fellow Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom.  Wally was the only man to fly in all three American space programs in the 1960s.

During the Apollo 7 flight, he caught a cold and took Actifed, which was a standard component of NASA's onboard medical kit during Apollo, to relieve his symptoms.  Years later when Actifed was made available over-the-counter, Wally appeared in
commercials — flanked by fellow Apollo astronauts — touting its effectiveness.  He also won an Emmy for recording the first television footage from inside a spacecraft during the Apollo 7 mission; and was the first man to play music in space, blowing "Jingle Bells" on his harmonica aboard Gemini 6.

Wally's reputation among his colleagues was that of a practical joker.  Lance Henriksen played him in The Right Stuff; his big scene comes when he tricks several fellow pilots into peeking into a wooden box crammed full of spring-loaded snakes.
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