Gus Grissom : biography
Virgil Ivan Grissom (April 3, 1926 – January 27, 1967), (Lt Col, USAF), better known as Gus Grissom, was one of the original NASA Project Mercury astronauts and a United States Air Force pilot. He was the second American to fly in space, and the first member of the NASA Astronaut Corps to fly in space twice.In 1963, NASA test pilot Joe Walker became the first person to fly twice in space, defined as >100km, while flying the X-15.
Grissom was killed along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee during a pre-launch test for the Apollo 1 mission at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (then known as Cape Kennedy), Florida. He was the first of the Mercury Seven to die. He was also a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and, posthumously, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
In 1958, Grissom received an official teletype message instructing him to report to an address in Washington, D.C. wearing civilian clothes. The message was classified "Top Secret" and Grissom was not to discuss its contents with anyone. Grissom discovered that he was one of 110 military test pilots whose credentials had earned them an invitation to learn more about the space program in general and Project Mercury in particular. Grissom liked the sound of the program, but knew that competition for the final spots would be fierce.
Captain Grissom then underwent a series of physical and psychological tests and on April 13, 1959 was notified that he had been chosen as one of the seven Mercury astronauts.Discovery Channel, When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions, "Ordinary Supermen," airdate June 8, 2008 (season 1)
Liberty Bell 7
On July 21, 1961, Grissom was pilot of the second Project Mercury flight, Mercury-Redstone 4, popularly known as Liberty Bell 7. This was a suborbital flight which lasted 15 minutes and 37 seconds. After splashdown, emergency explosive bolts unexpectedly fired and blew the hatch off, causing water to flood into the spacecraft. Quickly exiting through the open hatch and into the ocean, Grissom was nearly drowned as water began filling his spacesuit. A recovery helicopter tried to lift and recover the spacecraft, but the flooding spacecraft became too heavy, and it was ultimately cut loose before sinking.
Grissom asserted he had done nothing to cause the hatch to blow, and NASA officials eventually concluded that he was correct. Initiating the explosive egress system required hitting a metal trigger with the side of a closed fist, which unavoidably left a large, obvious bruise on the astronaut’s hand, but Grissom was found not to have any of the tell-tale bruising. Still, controversy remained, and fellow Mercury astronaut Wally Schirra, at the end of his October 3, 1962 flight, remained inside his spacecraft until it was safely aboard the recovery ship, and made a point of deliberately blowing the hatch to get out, bruising his hand.
Grissom’s spacecraft was recovered in 1999, but no further evidence was found which could conclusively explain how the explosive hatch release had occurred. Later, Guenter Wendt, pad leader for the early American manned space launches, wrote that he believed a small cover over the external release actuator was accidentally lost sometime during the flight or splashdown and the T-handle may have been tugged by a stray parachute shroud line, or was perhaps damaged by the heat of re-entry and after cooling upon splashdown, contracted and fired.
Grissom was surrounded by reporters in a news conference after his space flight in America’s second manned ship. When asked how he felt, he replied, "Well, I was scared a good portion of the time; I guess that’s a pretty good indication."
In early 1964 Alan Shepard was grounded after being diagnosed with Ménière’s disease and Grissom was designated command pilot for Gemini 3, the first manned Project Gemini flight, which flew on March 23, 1965. This mission made him the first NASA astronaut to fly into space twice.The first person to reach space twice was Joseph A. Walker, a NASA test pilot who made two X-15 flights in 1963 which exceeded altitude, the internationally recognized definition of outer space. This flight made three revolutions of the Earth and lasted for 4 hours, 52 minutes and 31 seconds. Grissom was one of the eight pilots of the NASA paraglider research vehicle.