Wally Schirra Has Died

Brian Zick

Thomas Watkins for AP reports: SAN DIEGO - Astronaut Walter M. "Wally" Schirra Jr., one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts and the only man to fly on all three of NASA's early space missions, has died at the age of 84, NASA officials confirmed Thursday. Schirra, who commanded the first rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit, died late Wednesday, said David Mould, NASA press secretary in Washington. Mould said Schirra had cancer, but he didn't know if that contributed to his death. In 1962, Schirra became the third American to orbit the Earth, encircling the globe six times in a flight that lasted more than nine hours. He returned to space three years later as commander of Gemini 6 and guided his two-man capsule toward Gemini 7, already in orbit. On Dec. 15, 1965, the two ships came within a few feet of each other as they shot through space, some 185 miles above the Earth. It was the first rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit. His third and final space flight in 1968 inaugurated the Apollo program that sought to land a man on the moon. The former Navy test pilot said he initially had little interest when he heard of NASA's Mercury program. But he grew more intrigued over time and the space agency named him one of the Mercury Seven in April 1959.

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