Broadcast 196 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

16 Feb 2004 CAPTAIN WALTER M. SCHIRRA, JR
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Captain Wally Schirra USN (RET), one of the original seven American astronauts, was the guest on The Space Show for this program. Captain Schirra spoke to us about his experiences as an astronaut, from the physical exams needed to qualify as a "Right Stuff" astronaut to the differences in going to space in Mercury, Gemini, and the Apollo capsules and their rockets. Capt. Schirra also talked about the importance of going to Mars as part of an international effort. He suggested that it would be better to have a more useful space station as a platform for real science and going to Mars instead of using the Moon as a platform to go to Mars modeled after the ideas of Werner von Braun. In fact, he is not as supportive of returning to the Moon, he says we have already been there and done that, and wants to see our focus placed on Mars. He discussed the difficulties in going to the Moon and safely returning and said that is not a forgone conclusion that nations saying they have plans to go to the Moon will be able to do so and safely return. He explained to us how difficult and costly it was for the U.S. to go to and from the Moon. A listener asked him about the developing sub-orbital launch systems that are coming from the private-sector and he said he was concerned about the safety of the vehicles and the lack of space suits for the occupants in case of massive system failures. We also discussed his book published by Apogee Books, "Sigma 7." Capt. Schirra took us through some of the debriefing papers which are part of the book and explained many of the photos that are used in his book. I also asked Capt. Schirra to compare his space flight experiences to his combat missions in jet aircraft over Korea and being able to land his jet at night on an aircraft carrier. By far and away, landing at night on the carrier was far more challenging that coming back from space in any of the capsules. His comments on these subjects were enlightening and rich the humor that Captain Schirra is known to express without hesitation. Space Show listeners are urged to listen to this interview with Captain Schirra. After doing so, you will have do doubt as to what was meant when author Tom Wolfe coined the phrase for his book and movie, "The Right Stuff," and you will also come to know why Wally Schirra was selected to be on the original "Right Stuff" team of astronauts and great Americans.

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