Gus Grissom


Gus Grissom : biography

April 3, 1926 – January 27, 1967

Film and television

Grissom has been noted and remembered in many film and television productions. Before he became widely known as an astronaut, the film Air Cadet (1951) starring Richard Long and Rock Hudson briefly featured Grissom early in the movie as a U.S. Air Force candidate for flight school at Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas. Grissom was depicted by Fred Ward in the film The Right Stuff (1983) and (very briefly) in the film Apollo 13 (1995) by Steve Bernie. He was portrayed in the TV mini-series From the Earth to the Moon (1998) by Mark Rolston. Actor Kevin McCorkle played Grissom in the third season finale of the NBC television show American Dreams. Bryan Cranston played Grissom as a nervous variety-show guest in the film That Thing You Do!

In the film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock the Federation starship sent to survey the newly formed Genesis Planet is named USS Grissom. A second starship in Star Trek: The Next Generation is also said to be called USS Grissom. The character Gus Griswald in the popular children’s TV show Recess is named after Grissom (his fictional father is a General in the US Army and Gus is his recruit). The character Gil Grissom in the CBS television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and the character Virgil Tracy in the British television series Thunderbirds are named after the astronaut. NASA footage including Grissom’s Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions was released in high definition on the Discovery Channel in June 2008 in the television series When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions.

Awards and honors

  • Distinguished Flying Cross for service in Korea
  • Air Medal with cluster for service in Korea
  • Congressional Space Medal of Honor, 1978 (posthumous)
  • Two NASA Distinguished Service Medals
  • NASA Exceptional Service Medal
  • Army Good Conduct Medal
  • American Campaign Medal
  • World War Two Victory Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal with star
  • Korean Service Medal
  • United Nations Service Medal
  • Air Force Command Pilot rating with astronaut qualifier
  • Honorary Doctorate, Florida Institute of Technology
  • Honorary Mayor of Newport News, Virginia (posthumous)
  • Enshrined at the "Wall of Honor" at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport
  • In a 2010 Space Foundation survey, Grissom was ranked as the #9 (tied with astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Alan Shepard) most popular space hero.


  • The dismantled Launch Pad 34 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station bears two memorial plaques: One reads, They gave their lives in service to their country in the ongoing exploration of humankind’s final frontier. Remember them not for how they died but for those ideals for which they lived. and the other, In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so others could reach for the stars. Ad astra per aspera, (a rough road leads to the stars). God speed to the crew of Apollo 1.
  • Grissom is named with his Apollo 1 crewmates on the Space Mirror Memorial at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.
  • Grissom crater is one of several located on the far side of the Moon named for Apollo astronauts, near a large crater (walled plain) named Apollo.
  • Grissom Hill is one of the Apollo 1 Hills on Mars, located southwest of Columbia Memorial Station.
  • Navi (Ivan spelled backwards), a nickname for the star Gamma Cassiopeiae: Grissom used this name, plus two others for White and Chaffee, on his Apollo 1 mission planning star charts as a joke, and the succeeding Apollo astronauts kept using the names as a memorial. commentary at 105:11:33
  • 2161 Grissom is a main belt asteroid.
  • The airport in Bedford, Indiana where Grissom flew as a teenager was renamed Virgil I. Grissom Municipal Airport.
  • Grissom’s boyhood home on Grissom Avenue (renamed in his honor after his Mercury flight) in Mitchell, Indiana, is currently being restored into a museum.
  • A limestone carving of the Titan II rocket which launched his Gemini flight is in downtown Mitchell, Indiana. There is also a memorial in nearby Spring Mill State Park.
  • The auditorium in Mitchell High School, which Grissom attended.
  • Virgil I. Grissom Library, Denbigh section of Newport News, Virginia.
  • Virgil I. Grissom Bridge across the Hampton River, on Rt 258 (Mercury Blvd, named after the Mercury program) in Hampton, VA, is one of the six bridges and one road named after the original 7 Mercury astronauts, who trained in the area.
  • Virgil "Gus" Grissom Park, Fullerton, California. (Fullerton also has parks named for White and Chaffee).
  • The Gus Grissom Stakes, thoroughbred horse race run each fall at Hoosier Park in Anderson, Indiana.
  • Grissom Island, artificial island, Long Beach Harbor off Southern California.