Virgil "Gus" Grissom


If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.
— Virgil "Gus" Grissom

Born April 3, 1926 in Mitchell, Indiana.  Virgil “Gus” Grissom earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.  Gus and his wife, Betty Moore Grissom, have two children, Scott and Mark.

While serving in the U. S. Air Force, Gus Grissom earned his pilot wings in March 1951. He flew 100 combat missions with the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Korea and earned both the Air Medal with Cluster and the Distinguished Flying Cross.  Following graduation from test pilot school at Edwards AFB in California, Grissom served as a test pilot assigned to the fighter branch at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio.

Lieutenant Colonel Grissom was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts selected by NASA in 1959.  He piloted the “Liberty Bell 7” spacecraft, the second suborbital Mercury test flight on July 21, 1961.  On March 23, 1965 Grissom served as command pilot on the first manned Gemini flight, a 3-orbit mission.  He was then chosen to serve as command pilot for the first three-manned Apollo flight, Apollo 1.

During a countdown simulation in preparation for the scheduled launch of the Apollo 1 mission, a flash fire in the spacecraft claimed the lives of all three aboard.

Virgil “Gus” Grissom made the ultimate sacrifice and lost his life in service to the nation and the space program on January 27, 1967 at 40 years of age.