Virgil “Gus” Grissom

Virgil “Gus” Grissom

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Virgil Ivan “Gus” Grissom, one of the original NASA Project Mercury astronauts. He was a United States Air Force pilot was the second American to fly in space, and the first member of the NASA Astronaut Corps to fly in space twice. He was born in Mitchel, Indiana in 1926, and fought in both World War II and the Korean War. In April of 1959 he was accepted as one of the original seven Mercury astronauts. His first flight in July of 1961 was a sub-orbital that lasted 15 minutes and 37 seconds. His second flight in 1964 was with John Young as a two person team in a Gemini capsule. This flight made three revolutions of the Earth and lasted for 4 hours, 52 minutes and 31 seconds.

Of course the reason we remember his name today is the tragedy that struck him, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. During a test of the command module for Apollo 1, there was a fire, killing all three astronauts. I am old enough to remember that day and how sad it was.

As a bit of trivia, for those of you who remember older British television, Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds characters were named after the original Mercury astronauts – Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, Gordon Carpenter, and Alan Shepard.

Below are a couple of quotes by Grissom, and also by others about the wonders of space.


The entirety of a speech given by Grissom to the employees of General Dynamics, builders of the Atlas rocket. “Do good work.”

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. Our God-given curiosity will force us to go there ourselves because in the final analysis, only man can fully evaluate the moon in terms understandable to other men.–Gus Grissom

There is a clarity, a brilliance to space that simply doesn’t exist on earth, even on a cloudless summer’s day in the Rockies, and nowhere else can you realize so fully the majesty of our Earth and be so awed at the thought that it’s only one of untold thousands of planets.– Gus Grissom

Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another.–Plato

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.–Paul Hawkens.

To be able to rise from the earth; to be able, from a station in outer space, to see the relationship of the planet earth to other planets; to be able to contemplate the billions of factors in precise and beautiful combination that make human existence possible; to be able to dwell on an encounter of the human brain and spirit with the universe – all this enlarges the human horizon…–Norman Cousins

Forget scientists. The next space launch we should send up painters, poets and musicians. I’d be more interested in what they discover than anything that takes place in a test tube.–James Razoff

When I first looked back at the Earth, standing on the Moon, I cried.–Alan Shepard

Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.–Sir Fred Hoyle

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