The Space Race with the Soviet Union was more about showing dominance in a new frontier than it was to achieve engineering and scientific triumphs for their own sake. Politicians such as Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and Vice President Humphrey realized this and were quick to play up personal associations with the astronauts.
Astronaut duties after a mission were almost as grueling as mission training – Schirra’s files contain extensive travel itineraries for public relations trips around the world, with every stop and meal tightly scheduled, with many speeches per day to give.
Even after their active NASA years, spacefarers are considered by the public to be “astronauts” forever. Some enjoyed the adulation, and some chafed at only being known for one aspect of their lives. Schirra generally enjoyed the opportunities and invitations that came for the rest of his life.
Sometimes, these events were happy celebrations, and at other times, sad occasions such as the memorial service for the seven astronauts lost on the last flight of space shuttle Challenger.