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Gus Grissom: The Lost Astronaut (Indiana Biography Series) Hardcover – September, 2004
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I have to remind myself over and over that it is nearly fifty years ago since Grissom and six other career military fighter pilots were selected by the fledgling NASA for Project Mercury, the United States' program to put a single astronaut in earth orbit. Many Americans have little or no idea of who this man was, let alone the success and controversy that swirled around his life and into the literature of nearly every retired astronaut's autobiography. If he is remembered by today's younger generations, it may be as a dim reference to "the fire" of 1967, in which Grissom and two other astronauts were killed during rehearsal for the maiden Project Apollo flight.
Author Ray E. Boomhower presents Grissom's life in a rather factual way. The reader does not get unduly bogged down in technology, the Cold War, or in the jocular astronaut life, aside from a few Wally Schirra stories. There is insightful and tasteful observation from Grissom's family and friends in Indiana, including Mrs. Betty Grissom. By rooting this work in Grissom's native community, the author conveys a sense that the hometown boy from the Midwest went off to school, war, and outer space, bringing pride to the folks back home. Boomhower has given us the story of Grissom's life, not Grissom's programs; Neal Thompson's recent biography of Alan B. Shepard has many of the same characteristics.Read more ›
The biography is thorough, and as far as I can tell generally quite accurate, although there is little to cross-reference it against. I found the story well written, but occasionally the pace bogged down, particularly in the sections dealing with early military service.
One thing I liked about the book is that it didn't focus exclusively on the space program or Apollo 1, but rather treated them in context with the rest of Grissom's life. I was pleased that the Gemini 3 mission was so thoroughly covered, and enjoyed learning about the interactions with the other astronauts, especially John Young and Wally Schirra. The book met the issue of the blown Mercury hatch head on, and by the end of the book it became clear that Grissom was not at fault for the incident.
The book fills a needed void in the history of space literature, and I am generally quite pleased with it. I give it four stars overall: I am glad we finally have a biography of Grissom, a true American hero.
If, however, you are knowledgeable about this era the book adds little insight into Gus Grissom that hasn't already been published. The best source for this insight, Betty Grissom, was interviewed for this book but it appears nothing new was brought to light. With that said, I understand and respect her right to keep certain aspects of his life private. BTW: Her book "Starfall" was outstanding - I learned much more about Gus Grissom from that than any other source. It's a shame it's out of print.
Regardless, I bought it, it's now in my collection and am glad that I did.
A more dedicated researcher however finds himself quickly at odds with these assumptions. If Grissom was the screwup the majority of people seem to think he was, then why did NASA not only select him to be the second American in space, but listened to his input to the point that they incorporated so many of his design idea's and requirements into the Gemini program that other astronauts referred to the spacecraft as the "Gusmobile" and complained that the spacecraft were tailored to fit his 5'6 140 pound frame, or why was he on the fast track to become the first American to walk on the moon? The logical conclusion is that Grissom wasn't the screw up people thought him to be. The problem facing the dedicated researcher is the lack of compiled information about Virgil Grissom.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was drawn to this book in part because I was a huge fan of the Gemini and Apollo programs in my youth. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Scott Blake
my favorite astronaut and absolutely should have been the first man on the moon.Published 10 months ago by Alan C.
Great piece of work by author Boomhower. Some biographies can by dry, but Boomhower's prose is filled with details, well researched, and easily accessible. Recommended.Published 11 months ago by indygadgetguy
Love Gus, I never got to meet him ,but I did meet some of the others ,can't wait to be able to start reading about GusPublished 22 months ago by Patricia Ann Saporito-Murdock