Credit: Purdue University Press

Book Review: Calculated Risk – The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom by George Leopold, Purdue University Press, 416 pages (Hardcover); U.S. $29.95.

Today, back on July 21, 1961, Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom piloted a suborbital mission of Project Mercury, boosted by a Mercury-Redstone 4 rocket that was topped by an escape tower and the Liberty Bell 7 single-seater capsule.

Credit: NASA

That pioneering flight lasted all of 15 minutes and 37 seconds, reaching an altitude of 118 miles, with Grissom splashing down safely in the Atlantic. However, explosive bolts unexpectedly fired and blew the hatch off, causing water to flood into the spacecraft.

Grissom’s dramatic rescue and a possible reason for the hatch blowing is one of numerous gems in this outstanding, well-written book by George Leopold, a veteran technology journalist and science writer who has covered the nexus between technology and policy for over thirty years.

Purdue University Press published this book as part of its Bicentennial Legacy Project. This volume is also under the Purdue Studies in Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Grissom in Gemini-3 spacecraft.
Credit: NASA

This book chronicles the life of the late Gus Grissom, Purdue’s first astronaut and details his Gemini 3 mission, the first manned Project Gemini flight that he flew with John Young in March1965. In an unofficial nod to the sinking of his Mercury craft, Grissom named the first Gemini spacecraft Molly Brown after the popular Broadway show The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Sadly, Grissom was one of the three astronauts killed in the January 27, 1967, Apollo 1 launch pad fire.

Calculated Risk draws from interviews with fellow astronauts, NASA engineers, family members and friends of Grissom to place his career in the context of the Cold War and the history of human spaceflight.

George Leopold has written an engaging and fact-filled account of Grissom’s life that spotlights the late astronaut’s professionalism and daring in the context of the Cold War and the history of human spaceflight.

For more information, go to:

http://www.thepress.purdue.edu/titles/format/9781557537454

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