Monday, March 23, 2009

83/365 We All Wanted To Name Our Kids Gus

In 1965, we were deprived -we had no Britney, no Beyonce - as 10 year olds we only had astronauts.

In 1965, astronauts were rock stars -they were all guys of course but even little girls dreamed of being one of the few who traveled into space. Every kid knew when a mission launch was scheduled, and everyone watched it on TV, holding their breath as the familiar countdown was given, and the final "Houston we have liftoff".

The year before Star Trek went where no man had gone before, two men went up in the first two-person space mission. Our kid logic on the playground saw this as The Beginning: if NASA could send up two people at once, then it was only a matter of time till we'd all be going, maybe in space cars or buses.

March 23, 1965 these guys made it look easy. Imagine yourself in their place, choosing to sit on top of a bomb someone is about to explode, hopefully not killing you in the process, but instead launching you away from the only known planet in the universe you can survive on, with no guarantees you'll be able to return.

Imagine that.

Gus Grissom and John Young completed the Gemini 3 mission safely. Almost two years later, Gus Grissom ran out of luck during a pre-launch test for Apollo 1. He and fellow astronauts Roger Chaffee and Ed White died when the command module caught fire. If Gus had lived, he would have been the one to take that first step onto the moon in 1969.

In 1965, we kids knew all the space jargon: pre-launch, "Houston we have liftoff", fire thrusters, boosters, second-stage engine,command module, retro-fire,splashdown.

And we knew what real heroes were.

All photos Johnson Space Center/NASA


  1. Real hereos .. it is a shame what passes for such (do kids even use that words anymore).
    Nice post. :)

  2. In 65, John, Paul, George, and Ringo were heros for a lot of kids and all they knew of space was Tang.

    As for Gus Grissom, there is no way to know where his career would have taken him if he had survived.

  3. Thanks for adding that, ME.

    Actually my first draft included the magic Liverpool boys -and anyone who knows me IRL will attest to this -they were right up there with astronauts.

    As to Gus Grissom's future as the first moonwalker, Deke Slayton states in his biography that NASA wanted one of the 4 original Mercury 7 astronauts to take the first step, and the first choice slated was Gus Grissom.