One could say Walter “Wally” Schirra was destined to become an astronaut as the son of a fighter pilot and wing-walker. It is no wonder the young Schirra would one day take his adventurous spirit into space.
Schirra‘s father served as one of his greatest inspirations. Aviation became his passion and Schirra flew his first plane by the age of 15.
He grew up to become one of the Mercury Seven astronauts and was the only person to fly in Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft.
The man had a knack for achieving firsts. He completed the first rendezvous with another Gemini spacecraft during his Gemini 6 mission. The crew avoided near catastrophe on the launch pad when a small cover was accidentally left in place over an engine intake, delaying mission launch.
Schirra also commanded Apollo 7, the first Apollo mission to carry a crew into space. It was this mission that resumed U.S. space flights 20 months after the tragedy of Apollo 1 and put the lunar landings back on track.
As he orbited Earth during the Apollo 7 mission in October 1968, Schirra wore a four-piece in-flight coverall garment. The complete suit consists of trousers, a jacket and boots with a Velcro patch on the soles.
The inflight garment is made of a material called Beta cloth which has Teflon-coated fibers. This material is designed to make the suit highly fire resistant, helping to prevent fires in the spacecraft. Beta cloth has a “slippery” quality, making it easier to get in and out of the suit when weightless in space.
Schirra’s suit, on loan from the National Air and Space Museum, is currently displayed in Space Center Houston’s Astronaut Gallery, where each and every visitor can be inspired by Schirra’s accomplishments and experience his enduring spirit of adventure.
On loan from the National Air and Space Museum.