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Walter “Wally” Schirra

Wally Schirra was one of NASA’s first seven astronauts (the Mercury Seven) and the third American to orbit the Earth.

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60 Years Ago: Astronaut Schirra Orbits the Earth Six Times Aboard Sigma 7

On Oct. 3, 1962, astronaut Walter M. “Wally” Schirra completed America’s third and then-longest orbital spaceflight during the Mercury-Atlas 8…

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Walter “Wally” Schirra

Selected by NASA in 1959, Schirra was one of the Mercury Seven, the first 7 astronauts in America’s space program.

On Oct. 3, 1962, astronaut Walter M. “Wally” Schirra completed America’s third and then-longest orbital spaceflight during the Mercury-Atlas 8 mission. Naming his spacecraft Sigma 7, Schirra completed six orbits of the Earth, conducting engineering tests of his spacecraft and several experiments including photography of the planet.

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Image of Mercury 7 astronaut Wally Schirra standing the a model of the Sigma 7 spacecraft.
Astronaut Walter M. “Wally” Schirra, one of the original seven astronauts for Mercury Project selected by NASA on April 27, 1959.

The Mercury Seven

On October 7, 1958, shortly after NASA opened for business, it announced its first major undertaking, Project Mercury. The objectives were threefold: to place a human spacecraft into orbital flight around Earth, observe human performance in such conditions, and recover the human and the spacecraft safely. In January 1959, the committee received and screened 508 service records of a group of talented test pilots, of which seven were ultimately chosen.

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The Mercury Seven

Portrait of M. Scott Carpenter.

Mercury-Atlas 7 astronaut

Portrait of L. Gordon Cooper, former astronaut

Mercury-Atlas 9 and Gemini V astronaut

John Glenn, Mercury Astronaut

Mercury-Atlas 6 and STS-95 astronaut

Mercury-Redstone 4, Gemini III and Apollo 1 astronaut

Portrait of Walter M. Schirra

Mercury-Atlas 8, Gemini VI-A and Apollo 7 astronaut

Mercury-Redstone 3 and Apollo 14 astronaut

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project astronaut