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So Long to Wally Schirra

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So Long to Wally Schirra

Old 4th May 2007, 16:02
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So Long to Wally Schirra

Although its not strictly airline related, I would like to use this forum to bid so long and farewell to Wally Schirra, the astronaut who died today aged 84. As a kid who avidly followed the Apollo moon missions, I will never forget Wally when he led the first mission on Apollo 7 to test the Command Module. Thanks Wally for all that you did on the space programmes. God speed.
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Old 5th May 2007, 06:53
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Are there any Turtles here?
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Old 5th May 2007, 07:28
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http://www.time.com/time/nation/arti...617647,00.html

" Wally Schirra once told Chris Kraft to go to hell. Remember the astronaut, who died this week at 84, for a lot of things, but put that particular bit of courage near the top of your list. Nobody, up until that moment, had ever told Kraft to go to hell, and the fact is, Schirra didn't tell him directly either. What he did do was tell Deke Slayton, the head of the astronaut corps, and he knew Slayton would tell Kraft, the director of all of the manned missions. Even when you're calling down your imprecation from the safe remove of the Apollo 7 command module high in Earth orbit, that took brass.
Apollo 7 was Schirra's third and last mission. Having joined the space agency as one of the original seven astronauts in 1959, the former Korean war combat pilot became the fifth American in space, orbiting the Earth in his tiny Mercury spacecraft in 1962. In 1965, he returned to space aboard Gemini 6 with co-pilot Tom Stafford, rendezvousing with Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, already waiting in orbit in Gemini 7. After those two trips, there wasn't much that rattled Schirra, but agreeing to fly Apollo 7 at all still took some spine.

On January 27, 1967, just 21 months before Schirra's mission took off, the Apollo command module had killed three of his colleagues, when a spark ignited its pure oxygen atmosphere, immolating Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee during a lockdown rehearsal on the pad. Everyone at NASA already knew that the so-far unflown Apollo was a lemon. Not long before the three men died, they sat for a photo session with a model of the command module resting on a table in front of them it. In one of the outtakes never released to the press, they dropped the grins, bowed their heads and brought their hands together prayerfully. They inscribed the picture to Harrison Storms, the head of North American Aviation, the spacecraft's lead contractor: "Stormy," the inscription read, "this time we are not calling Houston!"

After the fire, it was left to Schirra, the commander of the three-man back-up crew that included space rookies Walt Cunningham and Donn Eisele, to help oversee the gutting and redesign of the ship. Schirra was a bear about the job, stalking the factory floor, poking his nose into whatever the engineers were doing and making it clear when he did not like what he saw. If he wasn't satisfied with the answers he got, he'd go up to the executive suites and buttonhole Storms himself. "You guys want to fix this ship or not?" he'd challenge. "If so let me see you down on the factory floor with the rest of us."

After all this, it was no surprise that when the spacecraft finally took off for its 11-day trip, Schirra would be just as much of a pit bull about how the ship would be flown. NASA scientists had stuffed the flight plan with experiments and astronomical observations, but Schirra didn't want any part of them. This was an engineering mission, as the test pilots liked to call it, meaning that it was a shakedown flight for the ship itself, not a working trip for the men in lab coats.

Whenever an experiment crowded an engineering exercise, he'd jettison the experiment. When a prime-time broadcast was scheduled for shortly before the crew was to execute a tricky rendezvous, he scrubbed the TV show. "No TV until after the rendezvous," he pronounced. The ground objected but Schirra held firm. "TV will be delayed without any further discussion."

Things got more contentious still when all three men developed head colds, something that can be uncomfortable enough on Earth and is exponentially worse in the unfamiliar pressure of a sealed spacecraft. Reporters noticed the sparring between mission control and the ship and began writing about the "snappishness" of the astronauts. The Russian press weighed in too, pointing out the crew's "increased irritation due to the monotony of the spaceflight and the imperfect design of the systems for controlling the vital functions of the spacemen."

Finally, Kraft broke all protocol and proposed to speak to Schirra directly. Slayton offered to do it himself, figuring that as one astronaut to another he could communicate more candidly. Slayton did just that and later reported back to Kraft.

"I told him that the whole world was following this flight and that he and his crew were not coming across well," Slayton said. "I told him he was trained to do a job and that he'd better get busy doing it."

"And?" Kraft asked.

"And he told me to go to hell."

As Slayton must have known, however, doing his job was precisely what Schirra was engaged in for the entire 11 days aloft. Astronauts were pilots first and showmen second. And while the silver flight suits and the smiling press events and the ticker-tape parades belied that, they were hired for their unique understanding of the machines they flew and their hardheaded ability to coax the most from them. That was Schirra's gift. And if flipping off his boss was necessary to get his work done, well, he was happy to do that too. Kraft, 83, wound up respecting Schirra for that act of defiance. Schirra was happy to get that nod. But the fact was, the pilot in him really didn't need it. "

A professional pilot and an inspiration to all who aspire to professional status.

YBYSAIM
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Old 5th May 2007, 07:55
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Aviation would be a lot safer if a few more were willing to adopt Wally Schirra's approach.
RIP
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Old 5th May 2007, 08:09
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Sad. Another one gone, a real character and great Commander.
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Old 6th May 2007, 06:10
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I wish journalists would get the Apollo 1 / AS204 fire correct.

A spark of uncertain origin caused a fire, which rapidly spread in the pressurised 100% O2 atmosphere.

They keep on making it sound like the oxygen itself caught fire.
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Old 6th May 2007, 19:29
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Bye Bye Great Commander!
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Old 6th May 2007, 19:51
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President Kennedy asked Schirra whether he was a turtle at a White House dinner honoring the astronauts in 1963. Schirra gave the correct answer.
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Old 6th May 2007, 20:24
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Adding the Turtle Legend

Godspeed Wally. You truly had “the right stuff”.



Great site here for those who are interested.

http://www.wallyschirra.com/

Excerpt from the site:

LEGEND OF THE TURTLE:

Once upon a time, many years ago there was a man who was of good and noble character; without a trace of impurity in his thoughts. Unfortunately all about him he saw persons with vulgar minds unable to think of anything, except in sexual terms. He bemoaned his inability to find others with a similar highmindness, to his own. Like a turtle, he retreated into his shell. Then one day, while partaking of a pint of ale (for purely medicinal purposes of course), he realized that there must be others like him. Forced into bars, and saloons; imbibing alcohol as a balm for the ills inflicted by obscene and vulgar persons.

He resolved to locate all the other pure minded individuals that he could, even if this meant spending his every waking hour crawling from one bar to the next. This was the beginning of the Turtles. He embarked upon this quest with vigor and determination, but, since he was a man of limited means, quickly ran out of money.

Then one day, he got a tip on a horse running at long odds at the local track. The problem was that he had no money left with which to gamble. So, in desperation he wagered his last and most prized possession a donkey which he had raised from birth. Now this donkey was a particularly gentle and temperate animal, with a loving disposition. To lose his donkey would have been devastating, and yet what choice was there if the quest was to continue? Fortunately, he won the wager, and with the money was able to continue in his search for many more years, and begin the association of Turtles we know today.

And so, to commemorate this event, all members of this esteemed organization when asked, "Are You a Turtle?", must respond immediately without hesitation or fear of embarrassment, in a voice as loud and clear as the voice of the questioner: "You bet your sweet ass, I am" Failure to do so at anytime, will be penalized by having to buy a beer for everyone close enough to have heard the original question.
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Old 6th May 2007, 20:27
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"Death or the Ejection Seat"

Not seen much mention of his handling of the Gemini 6 Aborted launch...The Titan launcher lit but a split second later shut down before lifting off ( I don't have my sources to hand, I believe some dust caps/covers had been mistakenly left in place somewhere in the launcher)...He and Stafford were left sitting atop a fully fuelled, "dud" Titan, and, as he described it later " the clock had started" but they were going nowhere.....they were faced with the decision to stay in the Gemini and hope nothing went bang or eject off the pad, effectively scrubing the whole mission TFN and loose any chance of the rendezvous with Gemini 7 ( Borman/Lovell). Schirra made the choice to sit tight and thus "saved" the mission. If you listen to the tapes of the coversation between the spacecraft and the blockhouse you hear Schirra make the wonderful comment of "we're just sitting here breathing"........Cool indeed.

The message title is from memory, the title of the relevant Chapter of Andrew Chaikins excellent work on the 60's American Space program.
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Old 7th May 2007, 00:01
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Levity is the lubricant of a crisis. We resort to jokes, pranks and good natured kidding to relieve tension, stress and boredom.
If only we all had this attitude. RIP matey.

Ozzy
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Old 7th May 2007, 00:30
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He was the only astronaut to fly all three programs... Mercury, Gemini and Apollo.
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Old 7th May 2007, 02:08
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Angel How to become a Turtle ?

There was more to it that the response YBYSAIA. You had to become a Turtle. In keeping with the "spirit" of wholesomeness, you had to correctly answer three questions asked of you by a Turtle. The questions usually were initiated in a bar after a blank look following the question "Are you a Turtle". If you didn't respond correctly, you obviously were not a Turtle.
There were three questions and for the life of me I can only remember two of them.
What is a common four letter word for a woman and ending in 'unt'?
What is a four letter word for social intercourse and ending ending with a 'k'?
Does anyone remember the third question? It was in the same vein.
I was accosted with these questions by a USN Lt female in San Diego in about 1961.
OK. Now all of you get your minds out of the gutter and think.
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AUNT & TALK
Shows where your brains are.

Wally was one of the best. RIP
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Old 7th May 2007, 14:09
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Here are five turtle questions, with the correct answer.
#1 What is round, hard and sticks so far out of a man's pajama's that you can hang a hat on it?
HIS HEAD.
#2 What goes in hard and dry and comes out soft and sticky?
CHEWING GUM.
#3 What is 6 inches long and women can't wait to get their hands on?
MONEY (Paper money)
#4 What is a four letter word, ending in "K" that means to have intercourse?
TALK.
#5 What is long, hard and filled with seamen?
A SUBMARINE.
There are other questions, as there is no standard set.
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Old 8th May 2007, 22:43
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I would thoroughly recommend 'Failure is not an option' by Gene Krantz, the NASA Flight Director, who gives a vivid recollection of ' The Four Inch Flight' mentioned above.
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Old 8th May 2007, 23:25
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The 4 inch flight was actually Mercury-Redstone 1. An unmanned rocket on November 1st 1960. Schirra was involved along with Tom Stafford, in the premature on launch pad shut down of Gemini 6 (December 12, 1965.)

I agree about Kranz's book though, I'm about a quarter into it. Another belter is "Lost Moon" now known as "Apollo 13" by Jim Lovell.
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Old 9th May 2007, 08:04
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Just finished Schirras Space, sadly the day after he passed away. Its worth a read.
A few others worth looking at......
DEKE! Donald K Slayton. Wally gets a mention or two.
First Man, Neil Armstrong, great read.
Carrying the Fire, Micheal Collins, in my view one of the best accounts of the time.
Incredible times and very impressive people.

Last edited by mad_bob; 9th May 2007 at 08:06. Reason: Missed out some gaps.......Doh!!!
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Old 9th May 2007, 10:54
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For those who recall the movie Apollo 13, we all realise I think that it was a portmanteau of different interesting things that happened across a range of missions, but am I correct that developing the recovery procedures that were put together in very short order on the ground after the explosion was headed up primarily by Wally Schirra ?

I've got all the books mentioned above and many more, where I recall something like this being written about (the bookstore at the Cape Canaveral visitor centre being a prime source, and it's good they keep them all still in print) at home, but not with me here.
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Old 9th May 2007, 10:58
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I thought Schirra was out of NASA and working for TV by the time of 13? He was certainly alongside Cronkite on TV for Apollo 11.
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Old 9th May 2007, 12:04
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Schirra retired from the Navy and NASA in 1969, and joined CBS television soon thereafter.
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