If I was to ask you to name the first man in space, I’m sure you’d know it was Yuri Gagarin.
The first American? Well that was Alan Shepherd, who would later drive a golf ball (as he put it) “miles and miles and miles” from the surface of the Moon as Commander of the Apollo XIV mission.
But what about the second American? There’s a clue in the title
of the blog...
Well if you weren’t sure, the gentleman in the picture is USAF pilot turned original Mercury astronaut Virgin “Gus” Grissom who, along with four of his fellow pioneers would become immortalised in the names of Thunderbirds’ Tracy brothers from International Rescue...
Before I embarked on finding out and writing about two of Hollywood’s most beautiful peroxide blondes, Gus Grissom was the subject of my first attempt at an internet researched biography.
Grissom’s life was relatively short, but remarkable nonetheless... yet in some quarters, his reputation was forever tarnished when his historic 1961 suborbital flight aboard Liberty Bell 7 ended with the astronaut having to be plucked from the ocean after the hatch seal blew and the craft sank...
There was never any conclusive proof that Grissom had caused the bolts to fire (which blew open the hatch) – even inadvertently. In fact, there is compelling evidence to the contrary, but the stigma proved difficult to shake off...
However, NASA’s faith in Grissom was displayed when he became the first man to fly in space twice as command pilot of Gemini III in 1965. Almost comically, the diminutive Grissom had been involved in the cockpit design and the first three craft were built around Grissom... only to find that 14 of the 16 NASA astronauts couldn’t actually fit inside the cockpit!!
Grissom’s life was to end in tragic and controversial circumstances in the Apollo I launchpad fire in January 1967. I have decided to reissue the book, which will be re-titled Never Without a Wave in the hope that a few people might be interested in learning just a little bit about the man, his life and his tragic demise...
Virgil Ivan“Gus” Grissom (1926-1967)
All my own work... almost.