January 27, 2004
— NASA memorialized the Apollo 1 crew of Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee, by dedicating the hills that surround the landing site of its Mars Exploration Rover Spirit to the fallen astronauts. The Apollo 1 crew perished in a flash fire during a launch pad test of their spacecraft 37 years ago Tuesday (Jan. 27).
"Throughout recorded history, explorers have had both the honor and responsibility of naming significant landmarks," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe.
"Their sacrifice helped make our giant leap for mankind possible. Today, as America strides towards our next giant leap, NASA and the Mars Exploration Rover team created a fitting tribute to these brave explorers and their legacy," said O'Keefe.
Newly-christened "Grissom Hill" is located 4.7 miles (7.5 km) southwest of Spirit's current position. "White Hill" is 7 miles (11.2 km) northwest, and "Chaffee Hill" is 8.9 miles (14.3 km) south-southwest of the robot explorer's location.
Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom was a U.S. Air Force test pilot when he was selected in 1959 as one of NASA's 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 person to launch to space twice, when he commanded the first manned flight of NASA's two-seater spacecraft, Gemini 3.
As commander of the first crewed Apollo mission, Grissom died along with White and Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, VA.
Edward White was a U.S. Air Force test pilot when he was chosen in 1962 as a member of the "Next Nine," NASA's second astronaut group. On June 3, 1965, White became the first American to perform a spacewalk during the flight of Gemini 4.
He is buried at his alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Selected in 1963 as a member of NASA's third astronaut class, Roger Chaffee was a Gemini capsule communicator (capcom). He also helped to develop the communications, instrumentation and control systems for the Apollo branch of the astronaut office.
On March 21, 1966, Chaffee was selected to pilot the first Apollo flight. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.