Monday, July 21, 2008

Wally Schirra & the Apollo 7 Seat Strut

This is Wally Schirra . Wally was an amazingly smart man, who was also one of the funniest guys I've met and was test pilots test pilot. He was one of the Mercury 7 astronauts, he was the only American to fly Mercury, Gemini & Apollo spacecraft missions and he was a hero in every sense of the word. I was privileged to meet and talk with Wally at a few events, he was truly a class act, especially when dealing with kids.

I remember asking Wally what he thought of the movie The Right Stuff, where his enormous contributions were competely ignored and he chuckled, then said, "it was Animal House in space". Obviously he didn't like that movie, mainly because it showed his friend Gus Grissom as a bumbling, panicked, hot headed imbecile, which was nothing like the man, who in fact is considered the best pilot & engineer of the Mercury 7.

This photo was taken at the San Diego Aerospace Museum when Wally was being presented his moon rock from NASA and he donated it to the museum. I have a lot of my rarest pieces on loan to the SDAM and I was invited to Wally's ceremony.

After the moon rock presentation, Wally was gracious enough to autograph and take a photo with the black & silver pipe that I'm holding. That black pipe is one of the 4 astronaut couch seat struts that helped support Wally, Walt Cunningham and Don Eisele during the Apollo 7 mission. Apollo 7 was the 1st Apollo manned mission, the mission went off perfectly with the crew validating all of the improvements made to the Apollo command module, after the Apollo 1 disaster. The mission was so successful, it allowed NASA to send the Apollo 8 crew to the moon.

This is one of my favorite pieces in my collection, I bought this from the family of the gentleman who helped train all of the astronauts and it comes with a letter of thanks from Wally in 1968. It turns out that because the Apollo 7 spacecraft was the first manned Apollo spacecraft to fly, the interior was literally taken apart to investigate every facet of the spacecraft.

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