NASA has opened a page on the birthday of NASA astronaut Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom celebrating the life of one of the space agency’s first astronauts. Grissom joined NASA in 1959 and flew the second manned mission, MR-4 (Mercury Redstone 4), in the one-man Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft in 1961. He would go on to fly the first mission of NASA’s Gemini Program, Gemini-3, with John Young and was supposed to fly the first flight of the Apollo Program as well. This was not to be.
In January 1967, during a routine “plugs out” test, a flash fire broke out in the Apollo 1 capsule, killing Grissom and fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee.
Grissom is remembered primarily as the astronaut who flew the Liberty Bell 7 mission, which saw the capsule sink to the bottom of the ocean (the spacecraft was later recovered and is now on display at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center). Although some attempted to blame Grissom for the loss, it was later shown that Grissom was likely not to blame. He also is remembered for perishing in the Apollo 1 fire. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
Grissom was born April 3, 1926, and began flying at an early age. As was the case with most astronauts of the era, Grissom was a highly-experienced test pilot. Grissom was a veteran of the Korean War, flying 100 combat missions, and he requested to stay in the war zone for an additional 25 missions.
What few today know is that, according to NASA insiders at the time, had he survived, the first man to set foot on the Moon would not have been named Armstrong; he likely would have been named Grissom.
To see the webpage click here: Gus Grissom
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