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Gus Grissom transitioned from successful Air Force test pilot to NASA astronaut, despite a controversial landing in the Liberty Bell 7.
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Grissom struggled to get out and swam in the waters nearby, watching as the spacecraft sank.
Four years later, he was assigned another mission. As the commander of Gemini III, Grissom got a chance to orbit Earth three times. He and pilot John Young also conducted experiments and evaluated the spacecraft. Less than five hours after they launched on March 23, 1965,
Gemini III—nicknamed "Molly Brown" after the musical about the Titanic survivor by the same name—safely returned to Earth as heroes. Shortly after their mission was complete, Grissom and Young were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Grissom was selected to command the first manned mission of what would become known as Apollo 1. Unfortunately, Grissom and the rest of his crew, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, never made it into space. They died on January 27, 1967, in fire during a pre-flight test at the NASA Space Center in Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral), Florida. Grissom left behind a wife and two children.
Like many other astronauts, Grissom knew his work was dangerous, but important. He is quoted in the book Footprints on the Moon as saying, "If we die, we want people to accept it. We're 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."
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