The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom, Revised and Expanded
362 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 67 Illustrations
Unlike other American astronauts, Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom never had the chance to publish his memoirs. Killed along with his crew in a launch pad fire on January 27, 1967, Grissom also lost his chance to walk on the moon and return to describe his journey. Others went in his place. The stories of the moon walkers are familiar. Less appreciated are Grissom's contributions.
The international prestige of winning the Moon Race cannot be understated, and Grissom played a pivotal and enduring role in securing that legacy for the United States. Indeed, Grissom was first and foremost a Cold Warrior, a member of the first group of Mercury astronauts whose goal it was to beat the Soviet Union into space and eventually to the moon.
Drawing on extensive interviews with fellow astronauts, NASA engineers, family members, and friends of Gus Grissom, George Leopold delivers a comprehensive and corrective account of Grissom's life that places his career in the context of the Cold War and the history of human spaceflight.
Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom adds significantly to our understanding of that tumultuous and ultimately triumphant period in American history.
Introduction: Pure Oxygen
5. Test Pilot
6. Mercury Seven
7. Extracurricular Activities
8. The Flight of Liberty Bell 7
9. Down a Peg
11. Risk and Reward
12. How Astronauts Talk
13. Front of the Line
14. Death at 218 Feet
15. Abandon in Place
"On July 21, 1961, in the middle of a family vacation, my parents stopped to let me watch Gus Grissom’s historic fifteen-minute mission in Liberty Bell 7, the second manned Project Mercury flight. At thirteen, I was already very excited about space exploration. I could only imagine that someday I might follow in the footsteps of my hero who was born at the opposite end of the state from my northern Indiana home. Gus Grissom came from a rural, hardworking background just like me, and my later path mirrored his as I earned mechanical engineering degrees from Purdue University and went on to fly with the US Air Force and then NASA. We both pursued bold dreams. Through grit and determination, Grissom rose from the pastoral Midwest to achieve those dreams, his life ending tragically while Gus was still in his prime. George Leopold’s well-researched and inspiring biography of Grissom details an imperfect man willing to risk his life for a chance to explore the unknown. This book is a must-read for every space enthusiast." —Jerry Ross, Astronaut and author of Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA’s Record-Setting Frequent Flyer
"Gus Grissom was one of the original seven astronauts. A few of us can still remember the impact they had on our nation, and the pride we took in their extraordinary and exciting achievements. They lifted us all and made us proud to be an American. Gus Grissom radiated a quiet, determined competence in all that he did. He understood and accepted the danger of his job but also knew its immense value to our knowledge and understanding of the planet we all inhabit. This readable and compelling biography superbly relates the life of this proud son of Indiana and America." —Lee H. Hamilton, former Indiana congressman, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission and Distinguished Scholar with the School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University
"Author George Leopold chronicles Grissom’s entire life, from his childhood in Mitchell, Indiana, through his military career to his years with NASA. Because no one had written a comprehensive and balanced biography, this book fills a literary and historical void." —Rich Gotshall, The Daily Journal, Indianapolis, Indiana
“George Leopold's Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom rescues its subject's reputation by presenting his life and career in full. The book is fascinating and haunting, and its impressive research exonerates Grissom from the charge of being a hapless astronaut who, in his peers' parlance, ‘screwed the pooch’…thrillingly told, taking readers into the cosmos with Grissom, conveying the sense of wonder and danger that accompanied these early voyages.” —The Wall Street Journal
"Calculated Risk fills an important space history gap. Most books covering the Apollo 1 fire— a turning point in the Cold War and the Space Race in many ways— get a lot of detail wrong. This book is one of the best ever written in terms of accuracy when it covers how Gus Grissom died. It also tells a fascinating tale of how he lived." —Francis French