Indiana Town to Honor 50th Anniversary of Grissom’s Space Flight

MITCHELL, Ind. (WOWO): The hometown of one of America‘s pioneering astronauts will celebrate his life as well as one of his most important flights. Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell is hosting a series of events for the 50th anniversary of Gemini 3, which featured Mitchell native Gus Grissom.

“Gus had the dedication and stick-to-itiveness that helped him become one of the original seven Mercury astronauts and helped him to become the first man to fly in space twice,” said Ray Boomhower with the Indiana Historical Society.

Boomhower wrote the 2004 biography Gus Grissom: The Lost Astronaut, and says Grissom only got to be part of Gemini 3 after Alan Shepard was knocked out of the space flight program due to the inner ear disorder Ménière‘s disease.

But Boomhower says Grissom‘s mechanical engineering degree from Purdue and his experience as an Air Force test pilot made him invaluable to NASA, especially after an investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing in the Liberty Bell flight.

“Gus had the technical expertise to help mold the space program, and he played a key role in its eventual success,” Boomhower said. Gemini 3 was the first manned flight of the new capsule designed to give astronauts more maneuverability in space.

It was also the first American spacecraft to carry two astronauts, with pilot and rookie astronaut John Young – later the captain of the first Space Shuttle Columbia mission – joining Grissom on board. To make light of the Liberty Bell sinking, Grissom decided to nickname the Gemini 3 capsule the Molly Brown – after the famous survivor of the Titanic disaster, which Boomhower says didn‘t exactly thrill NASA. “NASA at first didn‘t think this was something they wanted this as a name, so they asked Gus to come up with something different.

So he said ‘okay, how about Titanic?” The Molly Brown it was, though NASA ended the nicknaming of spacecraft until the Apollo moon landing program.

The Liberty Bell capsule was recovered, and it is now at the Grissom memorial at Spring Mill State Park – Grissom died along with astronauts Roger Chaffee and Ed White in a fire that took place during a pre-launch test of Apollo 1 in 1967.

Activities at the park include programs on the Liberty Bell capsule, tours of Grissom‘s boyhood home and a viewing of the Gemini 3 launch. Boomhower will also give a talk on Grissom at 6:30pm Monday at the Lakeview Room of the Spring Mill Inn.