Wally Schirra

March 12, 1923 – May 3, 2007

Walter “Wally” Schirra was a naval test pilot and one of the Mercury 7 astronauts. Schirra served aboard the USS Alaska during World War II and became a pilot for the Navy in 1948. He flew 90 missions during the Korean war and began test piloting aircraft in the years that followed. In 1959, Schirra was selected for Project Mercury and the first American manned-spaceflight program. He flew the Mercury-Atlas 8 mission onboard the Sigma 7 space capsule. MA-8 orbited the earth six times and allowed Schirra to manually pilot the capsule successfully.

Following the Mercury program, Schirra joined Project Gemini and flew Gemini 6A alongside Tom Stafford. During their mission they famously rendezvoused with another crewed capsule, Gemini 7 – the first test encounter of its kind. In 1968, Schirra became the first and only Mercury 7 astronaut to successfully fly a Mercury, Gemini and Apollo mission when he commanded Apollo 7. Apollo 7 was the first space mission that was televised…a “distraction” which angered Schirra at the time. Despite this, Schirra was known for his sense of humor. During Apollo 7, he famously surprised ground control with a report of spotting “Santa” from orbit and played “Jingle Bells” on a harmonica…the first time a musical instrument was ever played in space.

After he left NASA, Schirra spent some time as a television consultant and co-anchored  a number of the Apollo moon landing broadcasts with legendary newsman Walter Cronkite. He served on the board for a number of companies and worked with the Department of the Interior. In 2007, he was diagnosed with abdominal cancer and while receiving treatment for the disease, he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 84. 



Schirra’s ashes committed to the sea

Specific Location

Wally was cremated and was buried at sea from aboard the USS Ronald Reagan.




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