Grissom, Virgil I. | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom was born in Mitchell, Indiana., on April 3, 1926. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1950.
Grissom received his Air Force wings in 1951 and flew 100 combat missions in Korea in F-86 Sabres with the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. After returning to the United States he was a jet instructor at Bryan, Texas. In 1955, he studied aeronautical engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology, and then went to the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. In 1957 he went to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio as a test pilot in the fighter branch.
NASA selected Grissom as one of the original seven Mercury astronauts in 1959. He made the second 15-minute suborbital Mercury flight on July 21, 1961, aboard the capsule Liberty Bell 7. After splashdown in the Atlantic, explosive bolts holding the emergency exit hatch blew without warning and water filled the capsule, forcing Grissom into the ocean. He was rescued by helicopter, but the capsule sank. As senior astronaut in the US team after the departures of Glenn and Shepard, Grissom commanded the maiden flight of the two-man Gemini capsule. With him on Gemini 3 was rookie John Young. During a three-orbit flight the Grissom conducted the first maneuvers in orbit by a manned spacecraft. Grissom was assigned to command the first manned flight test of the Apollo capsule. He died along with astronauts Edward White II and Roger Chaffee in a fire during a launch pad test on Jan. 27, 1967. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery