Shira, 84 years old at the time of his death, was the only person to fly in three different programs - Mercury, Gemini and Apollo
Walter Shira, the only astronaut to fly on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, has died. He was 84. Shira's career at NASA began when he was selected as one of the original seven astronauts for Project Mercury in 1959 and continued throughout the period, from the first US attempts to take off into space to missions to the moon.
Shira flew in the fifth spacecraft of the Mercury series in 1962, and circled the Earth six times. He commanded Gemini 6A in 1965, and together with Tom Stafford, who flew in the second spacecraft, the two performed the first rendezvous in space between two maneuverable manned spacecraft. Gemini 6A and Gemini 7 flew for six hours about 30 centimeters apart. Shira also commanded Apollo 7, the first manned spacecraft in the Apollo series. The spacecraft orbited the Earth for 11 days in 1968. Shira and her fellow crew members Walt Cunningham and Don Eisen tested the Apollo systems and proved that it was ready to take astronauts to the moon. In preparation for the sequel, Apollo 7 broadcast the first live television broadcast to a commercial network from space.
"With the passing of Wally Shira, we at NASA are saddened to announce the loss of another pioneer in manned spaceflight," says NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. "As an astronaut in the Mercury program, Wally was a member of the first group of selected astronauts, who are referred to as the original seven" (the film The Selected Team dealt with these seven AB).