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Grissom Letter Shows Competition Among NASA Astronauts

A letter Gus Grissom wrote to his mother 52 years ago is up for auction this week.

grissom

Photo: Courtesy NASA APPEL

Gus Grissom is a Mitchell, Indiana native and was one of the original seven astronauts in Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight, as well as the second American in space.

“I probably would call you, because it’s been so long since I’ve called or written, but I’ve got some news I don’t think I should talk about over the phone.”

That’s an excerpt from a letter written by Gus Grissom to his parents 52 years ago that’s up for sale in the Space and Aviation Autograph and Artifact Auction this week.

Gus Grissom is a Mitchell, Indiana native and was one of the original seven astronauts in Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight, as well as the second American in space.

The two page letter written on Project Mercury letterhead reveals the fierce competition between astronauts in the early years of human spaceflights.

Grissom was frustrated that he was not selected for the mission and concerned that he was not getting much credit for the mission, but may be subject to the majority of the blame if something were to go wrong.

“All of us are mad because (John) Glenn was picked.  But we expressed our views prior to the selection so there isn’t much we can do about it but support the flight and the program.”

Lowell Grissom, Gus Grissom’s brother, says the family has kept the letter for years and has no idea how much money it is worth.

“It’s been sitting in a drawer for so long I could have donated it I guess, but sometimes unless you put a value on something there’s not a lot of interest in it,” Lowell Grissom said. “So I thought we just might see what it would bring on an auction.”

A letter from Alan Shepard, the first American in space, sold for $106,000 at an auction in September 2011, but Grissom’s could bring in even more due to the scarcity. He was just a Lieutenant Colonel when he died in the Apollo 1 disaster in 1967.

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