Not long after commanding Apollo 7, his third and final flight, Schirra retired from both NASA and the Navy, choosing to go into private business – and to help explain the very first moon landing on live television, just a few months later.
After the Apollo program ended, the surviving six of the original Mercury 7 astronauts got together to see how they could best use their legacy and name recognition. They decided to create a foundation that would assist students with scholarships, allowing the best and brightest engineering students to attend top colleges. This foundation continues today as the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, with astronauts from later programs such as Skylab and the Space Shuttle assisting. Since its inception, ASF has awarded over $4 million in scholarships to more than 400 of the nation’s top scholars.
The San Diego Air & Space Museum owes much to Schirra. A local resident for the last decades of his life, Wally worked to make sure the museum gained priceless space artifacts and was visited by a who’s-who of aerospace legends who enjoyed his company. The museum is proud to be the recipient of many artifacts related to his career, before, during, and after his astronaut years.
A hand-signed letter from the President of the United States demonstrates that at the time of his passing Schirra was still considered a national treasure.
Wally Schirra’s influence has continued even after his passing. As a great honor to him, the US Navy named a ship, the USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE-8) after him. Many astronauts and other space notables attended the ship’s San Diego launch in 2009.