Outside editorial: Remebering a man who reached for the skies

Posted: Tuesday, May 08, 2007

This editorial appeared in the New York Daily News:

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Back when space exploration was still a breathtakingly thrilling endeavor in the popular mind and America's astronauts were the most valorous of public heroes - back, we mean, before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and we all got blase about these things - Hackensack, N.J.'s, Wally Schirra was a Right Stuff guy, one of the nation's original Mercury Seven spacemen who blazed those unimaginably bold trails into the beyond.

Schirra died of a heart attack Thursday in La Jolla, Calif. He was 84.

Schirra was the son of two archetypal 1920s county-fair barnstormers - indeed, his mother was one of those daredevil wing-walkers of the day - and he grew up with that kind of derring-do in his blood.

In 1962 he orbited the Earth six times, and in 1965 he commanded the Gemini mission that made the first rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit, and in 1968 he headed up the Apollo 7 flight that was prologue to Armstrong's moonwalk a few months later.

Capt. Schirra was, in fact, the only astronaut to have flown in all three NASA projects - Mercury and Gemini and Apollo - back in those storybook days, all those years ago.

"We shared a common dream to test the limits of man's imagination and daring," Schirra subsequently wrote of the Mercury Seven pioneers. "Like England, Spain and Portugal crossing the seas in search of their nations' greatness, so we reached for the skies."

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