Gus Grissom

Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom (April 3, 1926 – January 27, 1967) was one of the seven original National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Project Mercury astronauts, and the first of the Mercury Seven to die. He was also a Project Gemini and an Apollo program astronaut. Grissom was the second American to fly in space, and the first member of the NASA Astronaut Corps to fly in space twice. In addition, Grissom was a World War II and Korean War veteran, U.S. Air Force test pilot, and a mechanical engineer. He was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster, a two-time recipient of the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, and, posthumously, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

During World War II, Grissom enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet. After his discharge from military service, Grissom enrolled at Purdue University, graduating with a bachelor's in mechanical engineering in 1950. He reenlisted in the U.S. Air Force, earning his pilot's wings in 1951, and flew 100 combat missions during the Korean War. After returning to the United States, Grissom was reassigned to work as a flight instructor at Bryan Air Force Base in Texas. He attended the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology for a year, earning a bachelor's degree in aeromechanics, and received his test pilot training at Edwards Air Force Base in California before his assignment as a test pilot at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Selected as one of the Mercury Seven astronauts, Grissom was the pilot of Mercury-Redstone 4 (Liberty Bell 7), the second American suborbital flight, on July 21, 1961. At the end of the flight, the capsule's hatch blew off prematurely after it landed in the Atlantic Ocean. Grissom was picked up by recovery helicopters, but the blown hatch caused the craft to fill with water and sink. His next flight was in the Project Gemini program as command pilot for Gemini 3 (Molly Brown), which was a successful three-orbit mission on March 23, 1965. Grissom, commander of AS-204 (Apollo 1), along with his fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee, died on January 27, 1967, during a pre-launch test for the Apollo 1 mission at Cape Kennedy, Florida.

Gus Grissom
Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom portrait
Gus Grissom in 1964
Born
Virgil Ivan Grissom

April 3, 1926
DiedJanuary 27, 1967 (aged 40)
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
NationalityUnited States
Alma mater
OccupationTest pilot and astronaut
Awards
Space career
NASA Astronaut
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel, USAF
Time in space
5h 7m
Selection1959 NASA Group 1
Missions
Mission insignia
Mercury 4 - Patch.png Gemini3.png Apollo 1 patch.png

Biography

Early life and education

Virgil Ivan Grissom was born in the small town of Mitchell, Indiana, on April 3, 1926,[1] to Dennis David Grissom, a signalman for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and Cecile King Grissom, a homemaker. Virgil was the family's second child (an older sister died in infancy shortly before his birth). He was followed by three younger siblings: a sister, Wilma, and two brothers, Norman and Lowell.[2] Grissom started school at Riley grade school. His interest in flying began in that time, building model airplanes.[1] He received his nickname when his friend was reading his name on a scorecard upside down and misread "Griss" for "Gus".[1]

As a youth Grissom attended the local Church of Christ, where he remained a lifelong member. He joined the local Boy Scout Troop and earned the rank of Star Scout.[3] Grissom credited the Scouts for his love of hunting and fishing. He was the leader of the Honor Guard in his Troop.[4] His first jobs were delivering newspapers for The Indianapolis Star in the morning and the Bedford Times in the evening.[1] In the summer he picked fruit in area orchards and worked at a dry-goods store.[4] He also worked at a local meat market, a service station, and a clothing store in Mitchell.

Grissom started attending Mitchell High School in 1940.[4] He wanted to play varsity basketball but he was too short. His father encouraged him to find sports he was more suited for, and he joined the swimming team.[4] Although he excelled at mathematics, Grissom was an average high school student in other subjects.[5] He graduated from high school in 1944.

In addition, Grissom occasionally spent time at a local airport in Bedford, Indiana, where he first became interested in aviation. A local attorney who owned a small plane would take him on flights for a $1 fee and taught him the basics of flying.[6]

Marriage and family

Grissom met and befriended Betty Lavonne Moore (1927–2018),[7] his future wife, through their extracurricular activities in high school. Grissom carried the American flag at the opening ceremonies of high school basketball games, while Moore played the drum in the high school band.[8] At a game during Betty's freshman year, they noticed their mutual attraction to each other and Grissom sat with her at halftime. They went on many movie dates. Grissom's father allowed him to use the family car, even though there were rations due to the war. Grissom used the car to teach Betty how to drive.[4]

Grissom married Moore on July 6, 1945, at the First Baptist Church in Mitchell when he was home on leave at the end of World War II. Grissom' brother, Norman, served as his best man; Moore's sister, Mary Lou Fosbrink, was her maid of honor.[9] Grissom and his wife, Betty, had two sons: Scott, born in 1950, and Mark, born in 1953.[10][11] Both sons graduated from Purdue University and eventually had aviation-related careers.[12]

Grissom "greatly valued being home with his family, stating that 'it sure helped to spend a quiet evening with your wife and children in your own living room'".[13] Grissom "refused to let work problems intrude on his time at home, and tried to complete technical reading or paperwork after the boys were asleep," while Betty Grissom "accommodated his hectic schedule by completing major chores and errands during the week so weekends would be free for family activities."[13] Two of Grissom's favorite pastimes were hunting and fishing, to which he introduced his sons. The family also enjoyed water sports and skiing.[13]

World War II military service

Gus Grissom photo portrait head and shoulders
Gus Grissom in his Air Force uniform

World War II began while Grissom was still in high school, but he was eager to join the military upon graduation. Grissom enlisted as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Forces during his senior year in high school, and completed an entrance exam in November 1943. Grissom was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Forces on August 8, 1944, at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. He was sent to Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls, Texas, for five weeks of basic flight training, and was later stationed at Brooks Field in San Antonio, Texas. In January 1945 Grissom was assigned to Boca Raton Army Airfield in Florida. Although he was interested in becoming a pilot, most of Grissom's time before his discharge in 1945 was spent as a clerk.[14]

Postwar civilian employment

Grissom was discharged from military service in November 1945, after the war had ended, and returned to Mitchell, where he took a job at Carpenter Body Works, a local bus manufacturing business. Grissom was determined to make his career in aviation and attend college. Using the G.I. Bill for partial payment of his school tuition, Grissom enrolled at Purdue University in September 1946.[15]

Due a shortage of campus housing during her husband's first semester in college in West Lafayette, Indiana, Grissom's wife, Betty, stayed in Mitchell living with her parents, while Grissom lived in a rented apartment with another male student. Betty Grissom joined her husband on campus during his second semester, and the couple settled into a small, one-bedroom apartment. Grissom continued his studies at Purdue, worked part-time as a cook at a local restaurant, and took summer classes in order to finish college early, while his wife worked the night shift as a long-distance operator for the Indiana Bell Telephone Company to help pay for his schooling and their living expenses. Grissom graduated from Purdue with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering in February 1950.[16]

Korean War military career

Grissom re-enlisted in the military after he graduated from Purdue, this time in the newly formed U.S. Air Force. He was accepted into the air cadet basic training program at Randolph Air Force Base in Universal City, Texas. Upon completion of the program, he was assigned to Williams Air Force Base in Mesa, Arizona, where his wife, Betty, and infant son, Scott, joined him, but the family remained there only briefly. In March 1951 Grissom received his pilot wings and a commission as a second lieutenant. Nine months later, in December 1951, Grissom and his family moved into new living quarters in Presque Isle, Maine, where he was assigned to Presque Isle Air Force Base and became a member of the 75th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron.[17]

North American F86-01
USAF F-86F, similar to the aircraft Grissom flew in Korea

With the ongoing Korean War, Grissom's squadron was dispatched to the war zone in February 1952. There he flew as an F-86 Sabre replacement pilot and was reassigned to the 334th Fighter Squadron of the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing stationed at Kimpo Air Base.[18] He flew one hundred combat missions during approximately six months of service in Korea, including multiple occasions when he broke up air raids from North Korean MiGs. On March 11, 1952, Grissom was promoted to first lieutenant and was cited for his "superlative airmanship" for his actions on March 23, 1952, when he flew cover for a photo reconnaissance mission.[19] Grissom was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster for his military service in Korea.[20]

After flying his quota of one hundred missions, Grissom asked to remain in Korea to fly another twenty-five flights, but his request was denied. Grissom returned to the United States to serve as a flight instructor at Bryan AFB in Bryan, Texas, where he was joined by his wife, Betty, and son, Scott. The Grissoms' second child, Mark, was born there in 1953. Grissom soon learned that flight instructors faced their own set of on-the-job risks. During a training exercise with a cadet, the trainee pilot caused a flap to break off their two-seat trainer, sending it into a roll. Grissom quickly climbed from the rear seat of the small aircraft to take over the controls and safely land it.[21]

In August 1955, Grissom was reassigned to the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. After completing the year-long course he earned a bachelor's degree in aeromechanics in 1956.[22] In October 1956, he entered USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California, and returned to Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio in May 1957, after attaining the rank of captain. Grissom served as a test pilot assigned to the fighter branch.[23][24][25]

NASA career

Project Mercury-Mercury Seven-Astronauts
The Project Mercury astronauts with a model of an Atlas rocket, July 12, 1962 – Grissom is at the far left.

In 1959 Grissom received an official teletype message instructing him to report to an address in Washington, D.C., wearing civilian clothes. The message was classified "Top Secret" and Grissom was ordered not to discuss its contents with anyone. Of the 508 military candidates who were considered, he was one of 110 test pilots whose credentials had earned them an invitation to learn more about the U.S. space program in general and its Project Mercury. Grissom was intrigued by the program, but knew that competition for the final spots would be fierce.[26][27]

Grissom passed the initial screening in Washington, D.C., and was among the thirty-nine candidates sent to the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Aeromedical Laboratory of the Wright Air Development Center in Dayton, Ohio, to undergo extensive physical and psychological testing. He was nearly disqualified when doctors discovered that he suffered from hay fever, but was permitted to continue after he argued that his allergies would not be a problem due to the absence of ragweed pollen in space.[28]

On April 13, 1959, Grissom received official notification that he had been selected as one of the seven Project Mercury astronauts. Grissom and the six other men, after taking a leave of absence from their respective branches of the military service, reported to the Special Task Group at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia on April 27, 1959, to begin their astronaut training.[29][30][31]

Project Mercury

Grissom prepares to enter Liberty Bell 7 61-MR4-76
Grissom in front of the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft

On July 21, 1961, Grissom was pilot of the second Project Mercury flight, Mercury-Redstone 4. Grissom's spacecraft, which he named Liberty Bell 7, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a sub-orbital flight that lasted 15 minutes and 37 seconds.[24][27] After splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, the Liberty Bell 7's emergency explosive bolts unexpectedly fired, blowing off the hatch and causing water to flood into the spacecraft. Grissom quickly exited through the open hatch and into the ocean. While waiting for recovery helicopters from USS Randolph to pick him up, Grissom struggled to keep from drowning after his spacesuit began losing buoyancy due to an open air inlet. Grissom managed to stay afloat until he was pulled from the water by a helicopter and taken to the U.S. Navy ship. In the meantime another recovery helicopter tried to lift and retrieve the Liberty Bell 7, but the flooding spacecraft became too heavy, forcing the recovery crew to cut it loose, and it ultimately sank.[27]

When reporters at a news conference surrounded Grissom after his space flight to ask how he felt, Grissom replied, "Well, I was scared a good portion of the time; I guess that's a pretty good indication."[32] Grissom stated he had done nothing to cause the hatch to blow, and no definitive explanation for the incident was found.[27][33] Robert F. Thompson, Director of Mercury Operations, was dispatched to USS Randolph by Space Task Group Director Robert Gilruth and spoke with Grissom upon his arrival on the aircraft carrier. Grissom explained that he had gotten ahead in the mission timeline and had removed the detonator cap, and also pulled the safety pin. Once the pin was removed, the trigger was no longer held in place and could have inadvertently fired as a result of ocean wave action, bobbing as a result of helicopter rotor wash, or other activity. NASA officials concluded Grissom had not necessarily initiated the firing of the explosive hatch, which would have required pressing a plunger that required five pounds of force to depress.[34] Initiating the explosive egress system called for pushing, or hitting, a metal trigger with the hand, which would have left an unavoidably large obvious bruise,[35] but Grissom was found not to have any of the telltale hand bruising.[27]

While the debate continued about the premature detonation of Liberty Bell 7's hatch bolts, precautions were initiated for subsequent flights. Fellow Mercury astronaut Wally Schirra, at the end of his October 3, 1962, flight, remained inside his spacecraft until it was safely aboard the recovery ship, and made a point of deliberately blowing the hatch to get out of the spacecraft, bruising his hand.[27][36]

Grissom's spacecraft was recovered in 1999, but no further evidence was found that could conclusively explain how the explosive hatch release had occurred. Later, Guenter Wendt, pad leader for the early American manned space launches, wrote that he believed a small cover over the external release actuator was accidentally lost sometime during the flight or splashdown. Another possible explanation was that the hatch's T-handle may have been tugged by a stray parachute suspension line, or was perhaps damaged by the heat of re-entry, and after cooling upon splashdown it contracted and caught fire.[30][37]

Project Gemini

In early 1964 Alan Shepard was grounded after being diagnosed with Ménière's disease and Grissom was designated command pilot for Gemini 3, the first manned Project Gemini flight, which flew on March 23, 1965.[27] This mission made Grissom the first NASA astronaut to fly into space twice.[38] The two-man flight on Gemini 3 with Grissom and John W. Young made three revolutions of the Earth and lasted for 4 hours, 52 minutes and 31 seconds.[39] Grissom was one of the eight pilots of the NASA paraglider research vehicle.[40]

Grissom, the shortest of the original seven astronauts at five feet seven inches tall, worked very closely with the engineers and technicians from McDonnell Aircraft who built the Gemini spacecraft. Because of his involvement in the design of the first three spacecraft, his fellow astronauts humorously referred to the craft as "the Gusmobile". By July 1963 NASA discovered 14 out of its 16 astronauts could not fit themselves into the cabin and the later cockpits were modified.[41][42] During this time Grissom invented the multi-axis translation thruster controller used to push the Gemini and Apollo spacecraft in linear directions for rendezvous and docking.[43]

In a joking nod to the sinking of his Mercury craft, Grissom named the first Gemini spacecraft Molly Brown (after the popular Broadway show, The Unsinkable Molly Brown).[27] Some NASA publicity officials were unhappy with this name and asked Grissom and his pilot, John Young, to come up with a new one. When they offered Titanic as an alternate,[27] NASA executives decided to allow them to use the name of Molly Brown for Gemini 3, but did not use it in official references. Much to the agency's chagrin, CAPCOM Gordon Cooper gave Gemini 3 its sendoff on launch with the remark to Grissom and Young, "You're on your way, Molly Brown!" Ground controllers also used it to reference the spacecraft throughout its flight.[44]

After the safe return of Gemini 3, NASA announced new spacecraft would not be nicknamed. Hence, Gemini 4 was not called American Eagle as its crew had planned. The practice of nicknaming spacecraft resumed in 1967, when managers realized that the Apollo flights needed a name for each of two flight elements, the Command Module (CSM) and the Lunar Module. Lobbying by the astronauts and senior NASA administrators also had an effect. Apollo 9 used the name Gumdrop for the Command Module and Spider for the Lunar Module.[45] However, Wally Schirra was prevented from naming his Apollo 7 spacecraft Phoenix in honor of the Apollo 1 crew because some believed that its nickname as a metaphor for "fire" might be misunderstood.[46]

Apollo program

Grissom was backup command pilot for Gemini 6A when he was transferred to the Apollo program and was assigned as commander of the first manned mission, AS-204, with Senior Pilot Ed White, who had flown in space on the Gemini 4 mission when he became the first American to make a spacewalk, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee.[27] The three men were granted permission to refer to their flight as "Apollo 1" on their mission insignia patch.

Problems with the simulator proved extremely annoying to Grissom, who told a reporter the problems with Apollo 1 came "in bushelfuls" and that he was skeptical of its chances to complete its fourteen-day mission.[48] Grissom got the nickname "Gruff Gus" due to being outspoken about the technical deficiencies of the spacecraft.[49] The engineers who programmed the Apollo training simulator had a difficult time keeping the simulator in sync with the continuous changes being made to the spacecraft. According to backup astronaut Walter Cunningham, "We knew that the spacecraft was, you know, in poor shape relative to what it ought to be. We felt like we could fly it, but let's face it, it just wasn't as good as it should have been for the job of flying the first manned Apollo mission."[27]

NASA pressed on. In mid-January 1967, "preparations were being made for the final pre-flight tests of Spacecraft 012."[27] On January 22, 1967, before returning to Cape Kennedy to conduct the January 27 plugs-out test that ended his life, Grissom's wife, Betty, later recalled that he took a lemon from a tree in his back yard and explained that he intended to hang it on that spacecraft, although he actually hung the lemon on the simulator (a duplicate of the Apollo spacecraft).[50][51]

Death and legacy

Apollo1-Crew 01
Apollo 1 crew, Grissom, White, and Chaffee
Apollo 1 fire
Charred remains of the Apollo 1 Command Module, in which Grissom was killed along with Roger B. Chaffee and Ed White

Before Apollo 1's planned launch on February 21, 1967, the Command Module interior caught fire and burned on January 27, 1967, during a pre-launch test on Launch Pad 34 at Cape Kennedy. Astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee, who were working inside the Command Module, were asphyxiated. The fire's ignition source was never determined, but their deaths were attributed to a wide range of lethal hazards in the early CSM design and conditions of the test, including a pressurized 100 percent oxygen prelaunch atmosphere, wiring and plumbing flaws, flammable materials used in the cockpit and in the astronauts' flight suits, and an inward-opening hatch that could not be opened quickly in an emergency and not at all with full internal pressure.[52]

Grissom's funeral services and burial at Arlington National Cemetery were held on January 31, 1967. Dignitaries in attendance included President Lyndon B. Johnson, members of the U.S. Congress, and fellow NASA astronauts, among others. Grissom's remains are buried in Section 3, plot number 2503-E, 38°52′23″N 77°04′22″W / 38.873115°N 77.072755°W at Arlington National Cemetery, beside Roger Chaffee's remains, which are interred in plot number 2502-F. White's remains are interred at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.[53][54]

GrissomChaffeeGrave
Gus Grissom's and Roger Chaffee's headstones during the NASA Day of Remembrance ceremony in 2013.

After the accident, NASA decided to give the flight the official designation of Apollo 1 and skip to Apollo 4 for the first unmanned orbital test of the CSM, counting the two unmanned suborbital tests, AS-201 and 202, as part of the sequence. The Apollo spacecraft problems were corrected, with Apollo 7, commanded by Wally Schirra, launched on October 11, 1968, more than a year after the Apollo 1 accident. The Apollo program reached its objective of successfully landing men on the Moon on July 20, 1969, with Apollo 11.[55][56]

At the time of his death, Grissom had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel and had logged a total of 4,600 hours flying time, including 3,500 hours in jet airplanes.[24] Some contend that Grissom could have been selected as one of the astronauts to walk on the Moon. "Deke" Slayton wrote that he had hoped for one of the original Mercury astronauts to go to the Moon, noting: "It wasn't just a cut-and-dried decision as to who should make the first steps on the Moon. If I had to select on that basis, my first choice would have been Gus, which both Chris Kraft and Bob Gilruth seconded."[57] Ultimately, Alan Shepard, one of the original seven NASA astronauts, would receive the honor of commanding the Apollo 14 lunar landing.[58]

Liberty Bell 7 spacesuit controversy

Mercury-Redstone 4 Spacesuit
Grissom's Project Mercury spacesuit on display at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame

When the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame opened in 1990, his family lent it the spacesuit worn by Grissom during Mercury 4 along with other personal artifacts belonging to the astronaut. In 2002, the museum went into bankruptcy and was taken over by a NASA contractor, whereupon the family asked for everything back.[59] All the artifacts were returned to them except the spacesuit, which NASA claimed was government property.[60] NASA insisted Grissom got authorization to use the spacesuit for a show and tell at his son's school and never returned it, but some Grissom family members claimed the astronaut rescued the spacesuit from a scrap heap.[61] As of December 2016, the space suit remains in the Hall of Fame's Heroes and Legends exhibit.[62]

Awards and honors

Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom MSFC-8772558
Gus Grissom in his Mercury spacesuit
USAF Master Astronaut badge
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Medal ribbon
Army Good Conduct Medal ribbon CongSpaceRib
NasaDisRib USA - NASA Excep Rib American Campaign Medal ribbon
World War II Victory Medal ribbon
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal ribbon
Bronze star
Bronze star
Korean Service Medal ribbon
United Nations Service Medal Korea ribbon Republic of Korea War Service Medal ribbon
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Longevity Service ribbon
Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings [24]
Distinguished Flying Cross[63]
Air Medal with cluster[63] Army Good Conduct Medal[63] Congressional Space Medal of Honor[63]
NASA Distinguished Service Medal[27] NASA Exceptional Service Medal[63] American Campaign Medal[63]
World War II Victory Medal[63] National Defense Service Medal
with one star[63]
Korean Service Medal
with two stars[63]
United Nations Korea Medal[63] Korean War Service Medal[63] Air Force Longevity Service Award

with three bronze oak leaves

Grissom was granted an Honorary Doctorate from Florida Institute of Technology in 1962, the first ever awarded by the university.[66] Grissom was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1981,[67] the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1987,[68] and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990.[69]

Memorials

Apollo 1 KSC Mirror
Grissom's name with Roger Chaffee's and Ed White's on the Space Mirror Memorial
LC34plaque2
One of two Apollo 1 memorial plaques at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 34
Apollo1plaque
Launch Complex 34 Plaque

Grissom Island is an artificial island off of Long Beach, California, created in 1966 for drilling oil (along with White, Chaffee and Freeman Islands).[74][75] Virgil "Gus" Grissom Park opened in 1971 in Fullerton, California. His widow and son were invited to the dedication ceremony and planted the first large tree in the park.[76] Grissom is named with his Apollo 1 crewmates on the Space Mirror Memorial, which was dedicated in 1991. His son, Gary Grissom, said, "When I was younger, I thought NASA would do something. It's a shame it has taken this long".[77][78]

Navi (Ivan spelled backwards), is a seldom-used nickname for the star Gamma Cassiopeiae. Grissom used this name, plus two others for White and Chaffee, on his Apollo 1 mission planning star charts as a joke, and the succeeding Apollo astronauts kept using the names as a memorial.[79][80] Grissom crater is one of several located on the far side of the Moon named for Apollo astronauts. The name was created and used unofficially by the Apollo 8 astronauts and was adopted as the official name by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1970.[81][82] 2161 Grissom is a main belt asteroid that was discovered in 1963 and officially designated in 1981.[83] The name references his launch date of July 21, 1961.[84] Grissom Hill, one of the Apollo 1 Hills on Mars was named by NASA on January 27, 2004, the 37th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire.[85][86]

Civilian infrastructure

  • The Virgil I. Grissom Museum is located just inside the entrance to Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, Indiana.[87]
  • Virgil I. Grissom Library, Denbigh section of Newport News, Virginia.[63]
  • The airport in Bedford, Indiana, where Grissom flew as a teenager was renamed Virgil I. Grissom Municipal Airport.[63]
  • Grissom's boyhood home in Mitchell, Indiana, is located on Grissom Avenue. The street was renamed in his honor after his Mercury flight.[88][89]
  • Virgil I. Grissom Bridge, Mercury Blvd, Hampton, Virginia. The City of Hampton named several bridges and a road after the first seven astronauts.[90]

Military infrastructure

Schools

  • Grissom Hall at Purdue University, his alma mater, was the home of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics for several decades. It is currently home of the Purdue department of Industrial Engineering.[93]
  • Grissom Hall, Florida Institute of Technology.[66]
  • Grissom Hall, State University of New York at Fredonia.[63]
  • Virgil I. Grissom High School, Huntsville, Alabama.[94]
  • Virgil I. Grissom Middle School, in Mishawaka, Indiana, Tinley Park, Illinois,[95] and Sterling Heights, Michigan.[95]
  • Virgil I. Grissom Junior High School 226, South Ozone Park, Queens, New York City, New York.[95]
  • Grissom Elementary School, Gary, Indiana, and Muncie, Indiana.[95]
  • Virgil I. Grissom Elementary School in the Hegewisch community of Chicago, Illinois,[95] and Houston, Texas.[96]
  • Virgil Grissom Elementary School, in Princeton, Iowa,[97] and Old Bridge, New Jersey, which was named for Grissom several years before his death.[98]
  • Virgil I. Grissom School No. 7, Rochester, New York.[95]
  • Grissom Elementary School, Tulsa, Oklahoma[99]
  • V. I. Grissom Elementary School, at the closed Clark Air Base, Philippines.[95]

Film and television

Grissom has been noted and remembered in many film and television productions. Before he became widely known as an astronaut, the film Air Cadet (1951) starring Richard Long and Rock Hudson briefly featured Grissom early in the movie as a U.S. Air Force candidate for flight school at Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas.[100] Grissom was depicted by Fred Ward in the film The Right Stuff (1983) and (very briefly) in the film Apollo 13 (1995) by Steve Bernie.[101][102]:43 He was portrayed in the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon (1998) by Mark Rolston.[103] Actor Kevin McCorkle played Grissom in the third-season finale of the NBC television show American Dreams.[104] Bryan Cranston played Grissom as a variety-show guest in the film That Thing You Do![105][106] Actor Joel Johnstone portrays Gus Grissom in the 2015 ABC TV series The Astronaut Wives Club.[107]

In the 1984 film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the Federation starship USS Grissom is named for Grissom.[108] Another USS Grissom was featured in a 1990 episode of the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation,[109] and was mentioned in a 1999 episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.[110] The character Gil Grissom in the CBS television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and the character Virgil Tracy in the British television series Thunderbirds are also named after the astronaut.[111][112] NASA footage, including Grissom's Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, was released in high definition on the Discovery Channel in June 2008 in the television series When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions.[30] In 2018, he is portrayed by Shea Whigham in First Man.[113]

Notes

  1. ^ The provenance of this quote is uncertain. See Leopold, pp. 209–214.
  1. ^ a b c d Burgess et al., p. 88.
  2. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 39–40.
  3. ^ "Scouting and Space Exploration". Boy Scouts of America. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e Burgess et al., p. 89.
  5. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 42–43.
  6. ^ Boomhower 2004, p. 47.
  7. ^ Callahan, Rick (October 10, 2018). "Betty Grissom, widow of astronaut Virgil 'Gus' Grissom, dies". Associated Press. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  8. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 44–45.
  9. ^ Boomhower 2004, p. 50.
  10. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 59,68.
  11. ^ "In Memoriam – Lt. Col. Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom (USAF)". Archived from the original on July 23, 2014.
  12. ^ Boomhower 2004, p. 335.
  13. ^ a b c "40th Anniversary of Mercury 7: Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom". NASA. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  14. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 48–49.
  15. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 50–53.
  16. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 55–57.
  17. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 57–60.
  18. ^ Boomhower 2004, p. 63.
  19. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 63–68.
  20. ^ Burgess 2014, p. 59.
  21. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 68–69.
  22. ^ Boomhower 2004, p. 71.
  23. ^ "Astronaut Biographies: Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom". U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on October 8, 2007. Retrieved January 23, 2008.
  24. ^ a b c d e "Astronaut Bio: Virgil I. Grissom". Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  25. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 72–74.
  26. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 88–91.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m White, Mary. "Detailed Biographies of Apollo I Crew – Gus Grissom". NASA History Program Office. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  28. ^ Boomhower 2004, pp. 92–93.
  29. ^ Boomhower 2004, p. 117.
  30. ^ a b c Discovery Channel, When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions, "Ordinary Supermen," airdate June 8, 2008 (season 1)
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References

  • Boomhower, Ray E. (2004). Gus Grissom: The Lost Astronaut. Indiana Biography Series. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. ISBN 0-87195-176-2.
  • Bredeson, Carmen (1998). Gus Grissom: A Space Biography. Countdown to Space. Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers. ISBN 0-89490-974-6. LCCN 97-21343. (For children.)
  • Burgess, Colin (2015). Aurora 7: The Mercury Space Flight of M. Scott Carpenter. Springer Praxis Books. ISBN 978-3-319-20438-3.
  • Burgess, Colin; Doolan, Kate; Vis, Bert (2008). Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching the Moon. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska. ISBN 978-0-8032-1332-6.
  • Burgess, Colin (2014). Liberty Bell 7: the suborbital Mercury flight of Virgil I. Grissom. Cham: Springer-Praxis books in space exploration. ISBN 978-3-319-04390-6. OCLC 868042180.
  • Collins, Michael (2001). Carrying the Fire: an Astronaut's Journey. Rowman and Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-8154-1028-7.
  • French, F.; Burgess, C. (2007). Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961–1965. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-1146-9.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Greenberger, Robert (2004). Gus Grissom: The Tragedy of Apollo 1. The Library of Astronaut Biographies. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8239-4458-1. LCCN 2003011980. (For children.)
  • Grissom, Virgil I. (1968). Gemini: A Personal Account of Man's Venture into Space. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0-02-545800-0. OCLC 442293.
  • Leopold, George (2016). Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press. ISBN 978-1-55753-745-4.
  • Shayler, David (2001). Gemini: Steps to the Moon. Chichester, United Kingdom: Praxis Publishing. ISBN 1-85233-405-3.
  • Slayton, Donald K.; Cassutt, Michael (1994). Deke!: U.S. Manned Space from Mercury to the Shuttle. New York City: Forge: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-85503-6. LCCN 94-2463. OCLC 29845663.
  • Taylor Jr., Robert M.; Stevens, Errol Wayne; Ponder, Mary Ann; Brockman, Paul (1989). Indiana: A New Historical Guide. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. ISBN 0-87195-048-0.
  • Vito, John De; Tropea, Frank (2010). Epic Television Miniseries: A Critical History. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-4149-5.

External links

1967 in spaceflight

The year 1967 in spaceflight saw more orbital launches than any other year before, including that of the first Australian satellite, WRESAT, which was launched from the Woomera Test Range atop an American Sparta rocket. The United States National Space Science Data Center catalogued 172 spacecraft placed into orbit by launches which occurred in 1967.The year saw both setbacks and advances for the United States Apollo programme. Three astronauts; Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee, were killed in a fire aboard the AS-204 spacecraft at Cape Kennedy Launch Complex 34 on 27 January whilst rehearsing the launch. On 20 October the Saturn V rocket made its maiden flight.

Air Cadet (film)

Air Cadet (titled Jet Men of the Air in the UK) is a 1951 American drama war film directed by Joseph Pevney and starring Stephen McNally, Gail Russell, Alex Nicol and Richard Long. Air Cadet featured United States Air Force (USAF) pilots in training along with actors mixed into the training courses. The film had a small early role for 26-year-old Rock Hudson and a scene with future astronaut Gus Grissom.

Apollo 1

Apollo 1, initially designated AS-204, was the first crewed mission of the United States Apollo program, the program to land the first men on the Moon. Planned as the first low Earth orbital test of the Apollo command and service module with a crew, to launch on February 21, 1967, the mission never flew; a cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station Launch Complex 34 on January 27 killed all three crew members—Command Pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee—and destroyed the command module (CM). The name Apollo 1, chosen by the crew, was officially retired by NASA in commemoration of them on April 24, 1967.

Immediately after the fire, NASA convened the Apollo 204 Accident Review Board to determine the cause of the fire, and both houses of the United States Congress conducted their own committee inquiries to oversee NASA's investigation. The ignition source of the fire was determined to be electrical, and the fire spread rapidly due to combustible nylon material, and the high pressure, pure oxygen cabin atmosphere. The astronauts' rescue was prevented by the plug door hatch, which could not be opened against the higher internal pressure of the cabin. Because the rocket was unfueled, the test was not considered hazardous, and emergency preparedness for the test was poor.

During the Congressional investigation, Senator Walter Mondale publicly revealed a NASA internal document citing problems with prime Apollo contractor North American Aviation, which became known as the "Phillips Report". This disclosure embarrassed NASA Administrator James E. Webb, who was unaware of the document's existence, and attracted controversy to the Apollo program. Despite congressional displeasure at NASA's lack of openness, both congressional committees ruled that the issues raised in the report had no bearing on the accident.

Manned Apollo flights were suspended for 20 months while the command module's hazards were addressed. However, the development and unmanned testing of the lunar module (LM) and Saturn V Moon rocket continued. The Saturn IB launch vehicle for Apollo 1, AS-204, was used for the first LM test flight, Apollo 5. The first successful manned Apollo mission was flown by Apollo 1's backup crew on Apollo 7 in October 1968.

Apollo 1 Hills

The Apollo 1 Hills are three vastly separated hills located in Gusev Crater, on Mars. They were photographed from a great distance by the Spirit Rover. They are named in memory of the three astronauts who died on the launchpad of Apollo 1.

Grissom Hill (after Gus Grissom) is located 7.5 km (4.7 mi) southwest of Columbia Memorial Station

Chaffee Hill (after Roger Chaffee) is located 14.3 km (8.9 mi) south-southwest of Columbia Memorial Station

White Hill (after Ed White) is located 11.2 km (7.0 mi) northwest of Columbia Memorial Station

The International Astronomical Union has yet to officially designate the hills with the names of the astronauts.

Betty Grissom

Betty Lavonne Grissom (née Moore; August 8, 1927 – October 7, 2018) was the plaintiff in a successful lawsuit against a NASA contractor which established a precedent for families of astronauts killed in service to receive compensation. Her husband Gus Grissom, one of the Mercury Seven astronauts, died in the first fatal accident in the history of the United States space program. Ms. Grissom has been portrayed in the books The Right Stuff by Tom Wolf and The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel and by the actors Veronica Cartwright and JoAnna Garcia in the film and television adaptations of those books.

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 34

Cape Canaveral (known as Cape Kennedy from 1963 to 1973) Air Force Station Launch Complex 34 (LC-34) is a launch site on Cape Canaveral, Florida. LC-34 and its companion LC-37 to the north were used by NASA from 1961 through 1968 to launch Saturn I and IB rockets as part of the Apollo program. It was the site of the Apollo 1 fire, which claimed the lives of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee on January 27, 1967.

Chaffee (crater)

Chaffee is a lunar impact crater that is located in the southern hemisphere on the far side of the Moon. It lies within the huge walled plain Apollo, and is one of several craters in that formation named for astronauts and people associated with the Apollo program. This basin is a double-ringed formation, and the crater Chaffee is situated across the southwest part of the inner ring. The ridge from this ring extends northward from the northern rim of Chaffee.

This is a circular crater with an outer rim that has an uneven form due to multiple small outward bulges. The perimeter is only slightly worn, and retains a sharp rim that projects above the surroundings. Two notable craters are attached to the outer rim: Chaffee F to the west and Chaffee W along the northwest. Chaffee actually intrudes somewhat into the former crater, and the two share a common rim. There is also a tiny craterlet exactly on the rim to the south-southeast.

The inner walls of Chaffee do not have a well-formed terrace system, and they slope downward to debris piles that extend part way across the floor. Parts of the interior floor are relatively level and featureless. However, there are several small craters lying in the northern half, particularly to the northwest of the midpoint.

The crater is named after astronaut Roger Chaffee, killed in the Apollo 1 fire. The nearby craters White and Grissom were named after the other two astronauts killed in the disaster, Ed White and Gus Grissom.

Ed White (astronaut)

Edward Higgins White II (November 14, 1930 – January 27, 1967), (Lt Col, USAF), was an American aeronautical engineer, U.S. Air Force officer, test pilot, and NASA astronaut. On June 3, 1965, he became the first American to walk in space. White died along with astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Roger B. Chaffee during prelaunch testing for the first manned Apollo mission at Cape Canaveral. He was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal for his flight in Gemini 4 and was then awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor posthumously.

Gemini 3

Gemini 3 was the first manned mission in NASA's Gemini program. On March 23, 1965, astronauts Gus Grissom and John Young flew three low Earth orbits in their spacecraft, which they nicknamed Molly Brown. This was the ninth manned US spaceflight (including two X-15 flights over 100 kilometers), and the 17th world human spaceflight including eight Soviet flights. It was also the final manned flight controlled from Cape Kennedy Air Force Station in Florida, before mission control functions were shifted to a new control center located at the newly opened Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas.

Grissom

Grissom may refer to:

Grissom, North Carolina, unincorporated community

Grissom (surname)

Gus Grissom, one of the original NASA Project Mercury astronauts and pilot of Gemini 3

Gil Grissom, fictional character in the television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Grissom (crater)

Grissom is a lunar impact crater that lies on the far side of the Moon. It is located just to the south of the huge walled plain Apollo, and to the northeast of the crater Cori. The rim of Grissom is eroded in places, particularly along the northeast where a pair of small craters lie along the sides. There is a clustering of small craterlets located to the south of the crater midpoint. A small crater lies along the northeast edge of the floor.

The crater is named after astronaut Gus Grissom, killed in the Apollo 1 fire. The nearby craters White and Chaffee were named after the other two astronauts killed in the disaster, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

Grissom Air Museum

The Grissom Air Museum, near Peru, Indiana and named for astronaut Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, was founded in 1981 by seven prior service military personnel who lived in the area including John Crume, its first Chairman. The Heritage Museum Foundation (HMF) wanted to preserve aircraft that were currently located at Grissom Air Reserve Base, formerly Grissom Air Force Base. The HMF started the Grissom Air Museum in 1987 outside of what then was the northern main gate of Grissom Air Reserve Base.

The museum currently has over twenty aircraft on display, including the oldest B-58 Hustler. It is also the home of the 319th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (1955–63), 305th Bomb Wing (1959-94), and the 434th Air Refueling Wing (1970–Present).

Grissom Hill

Grissom Hill, named after American astronaut Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, is one of the three Apollo 1 Hills on the planet Mars. It was discovered by the Spirit rover, and named on January 27, 2004 – the 37th anniversary of the Apollo 1 launchpad fire, which claimed Grissom's life, along with other crewmembers Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

The hill lies to southwest of the Columbia Memorial Station, where the Spirit rover landed.

List of Gemini astronauts

The Gemini astronauts were pilots who flew in Project Gemini, NASA's second human spaceflight program, between projects Mercury and Apollo. Carrying two astronauts at a time, a senior Command Pilot and a junior Pilot, the Gemini spacecraft was used for ten crewed missions. Sixteen astronauts flew on these missions, with four flying twice.Gemini was the second phase in the United States space program's larger goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" before the end of the 1960s, as proposed by president John F. Kennedy. As an intermediary step, Gemini afforded its astronauts the opportunity to gain critical spaceflight experience, performing tasks required in the later Apollo program which fulfilled this objective. Such tasks included rendezvous or station-keeping with other craft, docking, habitation in space over the course of several days, and flying spacecraft with more than one crew member. Importantly, most individuals who flew as Gemini astronauts returned to space as key personnel in the Apollo program, bringing with them their first-hand experience of the operations carried out during Gemini. Among the Gemini astronauts, six later walked on the Moon, another five flew to the Moon without landing, and two participated in Low Earth orbit Apollo missions. Gus Grissom and Ed White were killed in the Apollo 1 disaster, and former Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper did not perform any further spaceflights.

Astronaut participation in Project Gemini was also a strong predictor for future achievement during the Apollo Program:

Every Apollo mission commander, including Gus Grissom and with the exception of Alan Shepard, was a Gemini veteran.

All three crew members of Apollo 11, the first lunar landing-Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin-were Gemini veterans.

All three of the men who flew to the Moon twice-Jim Lovell, John Young and Gene Cernan-were Gemini veterans.

With the exception of Elliot See, every member of NASA's second Astronaut Group—the class of nine men selected following the Mercury Seven—flew as a Gemini astronaut.

Mercury-Redstone 4

Mercury-Redstone 4 was the second United States human spaceflight, on July 21, 1961. The suborbital Project Mercury flight was launched with a Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle, MRLV-8. The spacecraft, Mercury capsule #11, was nicknamed the Liberty Bell 7, and it was piloted by the astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom.

The spaceflight lasted 15 minutes 30 seconds, it reached an altitude of more than 102.8 nautical miles (190.4 km), and it flew 262.5 nautical miles (486.2 km) downrange, landing in the Atlantic Ocean. The flight went as expected until just after splashdown, when the hatch cover, designed to release explosively in the event of an emergency, accidentally blew. Grissom was at risk of drowning, but he was recovered safely via a U.S. Navy helicopter. The spacecraft sank into the Atlantic, and it was not recovered until 1999.

Mercury 4

Mercury 4 could refer to:

Mercury-Redstone 4, a.k.a. Liberty Bell 7, a manned sub-orbital spaceflight made by astronaut Gus Grissom.

Mercury-Atlas 4, an unmanned orbital test flight of the Atlas rocket and Mercury spacecraft.

Mercury4, an Australian boy band.

Mercury(IV), the element mercury in the +4 oxidation state

Bristol Mercury IV, an aero-engine

Mercury Seven

The Mercury Seven were the group of seven astronauts for Project Mercury announced by NASA on April 9, 1959. They are also referred to as the Original Seven and Astronaut Group 1. They piloted all the manned spaceflights of the Mercury program from May 1961 to May 1963. These seven original American astronauts were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton.

Members of the group flew on all of the NASA crewed orbital programs of the 20th century — Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle. Gus Grissom died in 1967, in the Apollo 1 fire; the others all survived past retirement from service. Alan Shepard became the first American in space in 1961, and walked on the Moon on Apollo 14 in 1971. John Glenn became the first American in orbit in 1962, and went on to become a U.S. senator. He flew on the Shuttle in 1998 to become the oldest person to fly in space. He was the last living member of the Mercury Seven when he died in 2016 at the age of 95.

Mitchell, Indiana

Mitchell is a city in Marion Township, Lawrence County, Indiana, United States. The population was 4,350 at the 2010 census.

Roger B. Chaffee

Roger Bruce Chaffee (, February 15, 1935 – January 27, 1967) was an American naval officer and naval aviator, aeronautical engineer, and NASA astronaut in the Apollo program.

Chaffee was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he became an Eagle Scout. He graduated from Central High School in 1953, and accepted a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship. He began his college education at Illinois Institute of Technology, where he was also involved in the fraternity Phi Kappa Sigma. He transferred to Purdue University in the autumn of 1954, where he continued his involvement in Phi Kappa Sigma and obtained his private pilot's license.

After graduating from Purdue in 1957, Chaffee completed his Navy pre-commissioning training and was commissioned as an ensign. He began pilot training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, flying a variety of planes including the T-34, T-28, and A3D. He became quality and safety control officer for Heavy Photographic Squadron 62 (VAP-62). His time in this unit included taking crucial photos of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, for which he was awarded the Air Medal. He was promoted to lieutenant commander on February 1, 1966.

Along with thirteen other pilots, Chaffee was selected to be an astronaut as part of NASA Astronaut Group 3 in 1963. He served as capsule communicator (CAPCOM) for the Gemini 3 and Gemini 4 missions and received his first spaceflight assignment in 1966. In 1967, he died in a fire along with fellow astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Ed White during a pre-launch test for the Apollo 1 mission at what was then the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station Launch Complex 34, Florida. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and a second Air Medal.

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