With the passing of Wally Schirra, there are only two of NASA’s original astronauts left. If you watch TV and they call him Walter in the obituary, you can bet the person saying it isn’t old enough to remember.
Wally Schirra trained to go to space before anyone knew if it could be safely done. And after he went once he did it again and again.
When I first heard of his death, instead of flashing back to Mercury, Gemini or Apollo, I remembered Actifed. Wally Schirra was the first astronaut to ‘shill’ for a product – appearing in commercials for that cold relief medicine.
Of course, that’s preserved on youtube. What isn’t?
Schirra was a “Right Stuff” kinda’ guy, cool enough to fall asleep in the van on the way to the launch pad! I’m not sure if NASA even looks for that kind of astronaut anymore?
Interestingly, it was a surprise Schirra got after landing that is used as proof that Gus Grissom didn’t ‘blow’ his Mercury capsule’s hatch, allowing it to sink. Grissom was accused of panicking while waiting to get out – not a good reputation for a spaceman. It’s an ugly story that’s haunted Grissom’s legacy even after his tragic death in the Apollo 1 accident.
Upon slashdown, Schirra’s Mercury capsule was hauled up on the deck of the U.S.S. Kearsarge. When he blew open the hatch, the recoil from the switch was enough to leave a nasty bruise. Grissom had no bruise. Proof positive the hatch malfunctioned!