Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom
LT COLONEL, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
COMMANDER, APOLLO 1
"One thing that would probably have been different if Gus had
lived: the first guy to walk on the moon would have been Gus Grissom...."
-From the book "Deke!" Donald K. Slayton and Michael
Virgil "Gus" Grissom was born in Mitchell, Indiana, on 3 April 1926. He briefly served in World War II as an air cadet. After his discharge in 1945, he attended Purdue University where he graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree. He enlisted in the Air Force and, after earning his wings in jet aircraft, he flew 100 combat missions in Korea. After a stint as a Flight Instructor, Gus became a Test Pilot at Wright-Patterson Air Base where he tested high performance jets. In 1959, he was selected as one of seven Mercury Astronauts out of a pool of 508 Military Test Pilots.
From the seven Mercury Astronauts, Gus was chosen with John Glenn and Alan Shepard as a candidate to be the first American in space. He was the second American to go into space, following Alan Shepard's suborbital flight. His flight on the "Liberty Bell 7" spacecraft was successful with the exception of the hatch which blew prematurely after landing, causing the spacecraft to sink in the Atlantic Ocean. Liberty Bell 7 was recovered from 3 miles deep in 1999, 38 years to the day after his lift-off.
Gus had a tremendous influence on the design and manufacture of the Gemini spacecraft, prompting the other astronauts to dub it the "Gusmobile." As Command Pilot for the first Gemini flight, Gus was the first American to enter space twice.
After a very successful Gemini flight with John Young as his pilot, Gus was again selected to make the first flight of a new spacecraft, "Apollo."
Liberty Bell 7
Second Flight of the Mercury Program
First Flight of the Gemini Program
Scheduled to be First Flight of the Apollo Program
||United States Air Medal with Cluster
||USAF Distinguished Flying Cross
||NASA Distinguished Service Medal
||Astronaut Hall of Fame Medal of Honor
||Congressional Space Medal of Honor
Astronaut Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom, suited up and ready to climb into Liberty
Bell 7 spacecraft, poses for a picture. Backup pilot John Glenn is in the right
corner of the view behind Grissom.