Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom.
Virgil Ivan Grissom was born on April 3, 1926 in Mitchell, Indiana.
Was one of the original seven American Astronauts, along with Lt. Malcolm Scott Carpenter, U.S. Navy; Cpt. LeRoy Gordon Cooper, Jr., U.S. Air Force; Lt Colonel. John Glenn, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps; Lt Commander. Walter Marty Schirra, Jr., U.S. Navy; Lt Commander. Alan Shepard, Jr., U.S. Navy; Cpt. Donald Kent Slayton, U.S. Air Force.
The Mercury Program was the manned space program for which all seven men had been selected.
In August 1944 he joined the United States Air Force dreaming to become a test pilot. He took a short break in 1945 to get married. When he returned to the base expecting to receive his flight training orders, However shortly afterward Japan surrendered to the Allies (Known as VJ Day) and he could not get trained. After being posted to various desk jobs he decided to leave the Air force with his dreams smashed. He was discharged November 1945.
After getting further disappointment in dead-end jobs he decided to get a degree he went back to school, three and a half years later he graduated with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. The call of flight was still strong though, he re-enlisted and 1951 received his wings. Grissom was sent to Korea less than a year later to complete one hundred combat missions with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. He achieved this as well as receiving both the Air Medal with cluster and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In 1957 His dreams were realised when he became a test pilot. In 1959, after a gruelling selection process he was selected as one of Americas first Astronauts. On May 5th 1961 Alan Shepard became the first American in space. Gus closely followed Shepard as the second American in space on July 21 1961 onboard Mercury-Atlas 4 (Liberty Bell 7). When the capsule splashed down the hatch release system blew the explosive bolts holding the hatch in place before the rescue helicopter could secure it. Grissom had to quickly get out and get clear before it sank. The capsule was lost. There was a great deal of debate whether Grissom panicked and blew the hatch or whether the hatch malfunctioned and blew itself. Grissom always maintained that there was a malfunction.
On March 23, 1965 Gus Grissom launched again and became the first of the original seven to return to space, this time as the commander of the first Gemini Mission (see gemini project
). The Capsule, Gemini-Titan 3, named Molly Brown (after "The unsinkable Molly Brown
" Who survived the Titanic
disaster. He felt it was only apt after the sinking of the liberty Bell) also contained Lieutenant John W. Young US Navy who was selected in the second intake of Astronauts in September 1962, also selected with that intake were the likes of Neil Armstrong
, Jim Lovell
and Ed White.
In March 1966 Grissom was selected for the Apollo Project and given the Command of Apollo 1. His crew Lieutenant Colonel Edward Higgins White, USAF, Lieutenant Commander Roger Bruce Chaffee, US NAVY (Selected in the third intake October 1963).
However, Tragically on January 27th 1967 During a Launch Pad Test, all three Astronauts were killed in a fire that engulfed the capsule's interior. NASA could not determine exactly how the fire started, but due primarily to the pressure difference the Astronauts could not open the hatch to escape.