Virgil Ivan “Gus” Grissom

astronaut
Born: 4/3/1926
Birthplace: Mitchell, Ind.

Grissom was raised in Mitchell, Ind., the oldest of four children. Following high school, he served in the Army Air Corps from 1944 to 1945. With the help of the GI Bill, Grissom attended Purdue University, where he received a BS in mechanical engineering in 1950. He rejoined the armed forces and in 1951 received his commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force. He flew more than a hundred combat missions in the Korean War and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Back in the United States, Grissom worked as a flight instructor and later attended test-pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After undergoing a rigorous screening process, Grissom was chosen as one of the first seven astronauts in 1959. In 1961 Captain Grissom made the second successful suborbital flight in the Project Mercury Liberty Bell 7, but the spacecraft sank shortly after splashdown. In 1965 he served as the command pilot for Gemini 3, the first staffed flight in the Gemini program. Grissom had been selected as commander of the first staffed Apollo mission when tragedy struck. During a preflight test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft, Lieutenant Colonel Grissom and astronauts Lt. Col. Edward H. White and Lt. Cdr. Roger Chafee were killed when a fire swept through the command module. The U.S. program to land a person on the Moon was accomplished two years later with the historic Apollo 11 landing on July 20, 1969.

Grissom was married to Betty Moore in 1945; the couple had two children.

Died: 1/27/1967