Apollo 1 Astronaut Virgil Grissom

Virgil I. Grissom


Born in Mitchell, Indiana in 1926, astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom graduated from Purdue University with a degree in mechanical engineering. He went on to become an experimental test pilot after serving in the Korean War. Grissom was one of the seven Mercury astronauts selected by NASA in 1959. He piloted the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft—the second and final suborbital Mercury test flight—on July 21st, 1961, where he almost drowned during splashdown due to a faulty hatch.

On March 23rd, 1965, he served as command pilot on the first manned Gemini flight—a 3-orbit mission during which the crew accomplished the first orbital trajectory modifications and the first lifting reentry of a manned spacecraft. After that, he served as a backup command pilot for Gemini 6.

Lieutenant Colonel Grissom tragically died on January 27th, 1967, in a cockpit flash fire during a launch pad test at Kennedy Space Center for the Apollo 1 mission. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.