NASA Headquarters issued a press release late yesterday announcing that the agency is memorializing the Apollo 1 crew -- Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee -- by naming the hills surrounding the first Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's landing site after the three astronauts.
The crew of Apollo 1 perished in a flash fire during a launchpad test of their Apollo spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, 37 years ago yesterday.
Lt. Colonel Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom was a U.S. Air Force test pilot when he was selected in 1959 as one of the Original Seven Mercury Astronauts. On July 21, 1961, Grissom became the second American and third human in space when he piloted Liberty Bell 7 on a 15 minute sub-orbital flight. On March 23, 1965 he became the first human to make the voyage to space twice when he commanded the first manned flight of the Gemini space program, Gemini 3. Selected as commander of the first manned Apollo mission, Grissom perished along with White and Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.
Captain Edward White was a United States Air Force test pilot when selected in 1962 as a member of the "Next Nine," NASA's second astronaut selection. On June 3, 1965, White became the first American to walk in space during the flight of Gemini 4. Selected as senior pilot for the first manned Apollo mission, White perished along with Grissom and Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire. He is buried at his alma mater, the United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.
Selected in 1963 as a member of NASA's third astronaut class, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Roger Chaffee worked as a Gemini capsule communicator. He also researched flight control communications systems, instrumentation systems, and attitude and translation control systems for the Apollo Branch of the Astronaut office. On March 21, 1966, he was selected as pilot for the first three-man Apollo flight. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.
The naming of the Gusev hills comes on the heels of the Mars Exploration Rover team honoring the Columbia crew of seven astronauts by renaming the Spirit lander, the Columbia Memorial Station.
The newly christened "Grissom Hill" is located 4.7 miles (7.5 kilometers) to the southwest of Spirit's position. "White Hill" is about 7 miles (11.2 kilometers) northwest of its position and "Chaffee Hill" is 8.9 miles (14.3 kilometers) south-southwest of Spirit's position.