NASA’s Mercury astronauts were seven highly skilled professional test pilots. Each of them seemed to possess the strength of character and commitment necessary to overcome apparently insurmountable obstacles as the United States entered into a Cold War space race with the Soviet Union. This was never more evident than on the epic suborbital MR-4 flight of Liberty Bell 7 with astronaut Virgil (‘Gus’) Grissom piloting the spacecraft to a successful splashdown, followed by the premature blowing of the craft’s explosive hatch. After a hurried exit and struggling to stay afloat, he could only watch helplessly as the recovery helicopter pilot valiantly fought a losing battle to save the sinking capsule.
That day NASA not only lost a spacecraft but came perilously close to losing one of its Mercury astronauts, a decorated Korean fighter pilot from Indiana who might one day have soared to the highest goal of them all, as the first person to set foot on the Moon.
For the first time, many of those closest to the flight of Liberty Bell 7 and astronaut Gus Grissom offer their stories and opinions on the dramatic events of July 21, 1961, and his later pioneering Gemini mission. They also tell of an often controversial life cut tragically and horrifically short in a launch pad fire that shocked the nation.