Gus Grissom

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.

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