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Author Topic:   Gus Grissom as first man to walk on the moon
bklyn55
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From: Milford, CT, USA
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posted 04-06-2015 03:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bklyn55   Click Here to Email bklyn55     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I heard/read (somewhere!) that Gus Grissom was being "groomed" to be the first man to set foot on the moon. Is this true, and if so/not, where can I find this info?

onesmallstep
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posted 04-06-2015 04:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, I haven't read or heard anywhere that Grissom was being 'groomed' or prepared for the first landing/walk on the moon - or any flight that would have followed his assignment to Apollo 1. True, with Deke Slayton as head of flight crew operations maybe he would prefer one of his fellow Original 7 astronauts as 'First Man' - but anyone could have made the 'final cut,' if the fire had not happened in 1967.

Keep in mind a well-documented scene during Gemini, when Slayton called an 'all-hands' meeting of all astronauts to brief them on the order of Apollo flights and their designations and mission goals. He emphasized that each flight would proceed in logical order, and could be repeated if not successful, prior to the first moon landing mission itself.

He closed the meeting by saying that he came into the room that day and looked at the men who would make the first Apollo flights - and the one who would make the first steps on the moon. Grissom was one of many in that room.

With deaths, reassignments and changes in mission plans, it really would have been a longshot for anyone to claim or be assigned a specific Apollo flight years ahead of a launch date and still keep that particular seat.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-06-2015 04:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In his biography "Deke!" written with Michael Cassutt, Slayton shares:
On thing that would probably have been different if Gus had lived: the first guy to walk on the moon would have been Gus Grissom, not Neil Armstrong.

...Bob Gilruth and headquarters and I agreed on one thing, prior to the Apollo fire: if possible, one of the Mercury astronauts would have the first chance at being first on the moon.

And at that time Gus was the one guy from the original seven who had the experience to press on through to the landing.

So from Slayton's perspective, no, Grissom as not being groomed, but had he lived, he may very well have been offered the role.

bklyn55
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posted 04-06-2015 07:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bklyn55   Click Here to Email bklyn55     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess "groom" was the wrong word to use. What I meant was, prior to the Apollo 1 tragedy, NASA ie. Slayton et al, had Gus in mind, assuming everything up to the first Moon landing mission went A-OK.

Delta7
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posted 04-07-2015 08:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My thinking is that Deke would have had to name the first lunar landing crew, commanded by Grissom, without it being assigned to a specific mission number. The crew would have begun training for the first landing, to be inserted into the schedule at the appropriate time. Since he had no control over the schedule of missions (only over who flew them), that's the only way Deke could have made sure Grissom became the first man to walk on the moon. In other words break the crew rotation system (which he stated he reserved the right to do), I also think it's likely Gus would have had a lot of input into whom else was assigned to the crew. I picture Deke sitting down with Gus after Apollo 1 and saying "The first moon landing is yours if you want it." Then assuming Gus accepted the offer, "Let's talk about who's gonna be on your crew."

onesmallstep
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posted 04-07-2015 10:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can picture Slayton breaking his own 'rule' regarding crew rotations - but for a one-time event like the first moon landing, it certainly would have taken a leap of faith to trust the machines (and men) to carry out the coveted landing on the first try, and perhaps leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth on the reason Slayton scrapped the rotation system.

Although he did put his foot down on Lovell taking Swigert as Mattingly's replacement on 13 - or else Lovell's entire crew would wait for a later flight - I could see Slayton playing 'favorites' regarding his fellow Mercury brethren; witness the swapping of crews for 13 and 14, to give Shepard more time for training (of course, after 13's aborted landing he had more than enough).

With Shepard and Cooper the last (active) astronauts of the Original 7 at the time, it was a no-brainer to tip the hat in favor of Shepard as Cooper, as is known, did not do himself favors as backup Apollo 10 commander and lost out, per Slayton's memoir, on any future Apollo command.

Delta7
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posted 04-07-2015 11:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Upon the successful completion of Apollo 1, Grissom would have been NASA's most experienced/flown astronaut. The first and only one with three flights under his belt (in all three programs; Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, including the first manned flights of the latter two). And on top of that he would have remained #1 in the pecking order. I don't see it as far-fetched that Slayton would decree that Grissom would make the first landing. There might have been a little bit of grumbling among a highly competitive astronaut group, but I doubt many would have questioned the selection of Grissom the individual for that role, or felt that he was "jumping the line" as with Shepard on Apollo 14.

I also think it's possible the official announcement might not have come right away. Due to the development/testing difficulties with the LM it's unlikely the landing would have occurred before 1969 anyway. Grissom might have spent some time working with Deke in the FCOD until the announcement was made, which might not have been until 1968. By then presumably McDivitt's and Borman's crews would have flown, and there would be a number of astronauts available for assignment to both the prime and backup crews. I could see either McDivitt or Borman being named as Grissom's backup, as well as Armstrong, Conrad or Stafford.

moorouge
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posted 04-08-2015 01:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just to throw the proverbial spanner into the works — wasn't there an alleged perception that NASA wanted a civilian to be first to set foot on the lunar surface? Wouldn't this rule out Grissom?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-08-2015 04:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Setting aside that the whole "civilian" story seems to be more rumor than actual directive, according to James Hansen and others, it only surfaced (no pun intended) after Armstrong was assigned to Apollo 11 and the question rose as to who was to be first to step foot on the moon.

If that was indeed the case, then it would never become an issue were Grissom assigned to the mission instead of Armstrong.

Skylon
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posted 04-08-2015 07:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I always have a rough time imagining who Grissom's crew would have been for a lunar landing because I have a hard time imagining a flawless Apollo 1 mission, and then a solid pace of flights given the delays to the lunar module.

If Apollo 1 flies it would be in early 1967 - great. After that, what would NASA do? The LM isn't ready. The Saturn V isn't ready.

Would Apollo 1 have been as super-successful as Apollo 7 was in 1968? I think not. If a second solo-CSM flight deemed necessay, I am sure Slayton would have flown the backup crew of Schirra, Eisele and Cunningham to keep McDivitt and Borman focused on the LM and Saturn. After that - then what?

APG85
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posted 04-08-2015 08:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for APG85     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I never really understood how this could have been "planned" for Grissom. Do you just keep inserting him into the flights until a successful landing mission is accomplished? After all, Apollo 11 might have failed and the first landing could have occurred on Apollo 12 making Conrad the first person to walk on the moon (unless his crew got "bumped")...

Delta7
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posted 04-08-2015 08:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Remember that NASA Administrator Tom Paine told the Apollo 11 crew just before launch that they would be launched on the next attempt if Apollo 11 failed to land. Whether that would have actually happened we'll never know. But it shows that anything was possible.

However I doubt that Slayton would have kept using Grissom until a successful landing was achieved. Maybe a second try at most but not simply because Slayton was that determined to make Grissom #1. At some point you need to give the crew a break and let another one have at it.

Skylon
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posted 04-08-2015 12:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The key word in Slayton's description is Grissom would have the "first chance at a lunar landing." The scenario I think Slayton, Gilruth and Kraft all imagined was a lot different than the actuality - especially since they envisioned all the "stepping stones" being accomplished in 1967 and 1968. As it was the Lunar Module had to prove itself ready to land, quickly in 1969.

I think that Slayton built the rotation so that when it came time to select a landing crew, he would break it and pick whom he saw as the very best to accomplish the task - a hand-picked crew that would have ample time to train for the mission.

Had Gus lived into circumstances similar to what actually occurred, with a landing in July, 1969 - I think Slayton, who considered Borman, Lovell and Anders a good landing crew, would have replaced Borman with Grissom (he retired anyway), assigned them Armstrong-Collins-Aldrin as backups and pointed them at Apollo 11. This would have caused minimal disturbance to the rotation. However, Grissom likely would have had to recognize a significant catch - if the landing slipped he would be stuck potentially with a dress-rehearsal flight - and no way out of that.

Jonnyed
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posted 04-08-2015 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jonnyed   Click Here to Email Jonnyed     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The idea of Grissom being the first man on the moon is an interesting "what if?" scenario -- of course, the obvious connection to the "Original 7" would be a great historical connection.

But what is really fun to imagine is "What would Grissom's "first step" quote have been?" While Neil's quote is really good, I can't imagine Grissom being quite so straight-laced conventional as Neil.

Given Gus's often disfavored quotes like "Molly Brown" I can imagine NASA telling Gus what his quote must be -- and Gus freelancing it!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-08-2015 03:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Maybe not his first words, but I can imagine Grissom at some point near the start of the moonwalk cracking wise about not "sinking" into the regolith, especially given the concerns of some at the time.

Jonnyed
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posted 04-08-2015 06:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jonnyed   Click Here to Email Jonnyed     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, while it is usually not profitable to let our imaginations run too wild, it's interesting to indulge the "Gus as first man on the moon" notion a bit more and imagine what he would have been like AFTER the big event.

Neil obviously had very quiet dignity about his status as first man, in the many decades of his life that followed the first moon landing. It's tempting to think that Gus would have been a little more "Hollywood" than Neil and reveled in his celebrity in a more public manner (primo uomo fashion) than Armstrong.

What do you think? Would Slayton have unintentionally groomed a big public relations challenge in a First Man Grissom?

Delta7
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posted 04-08-2015 06:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would imagine Gus would have said something about taking the first step for all mankind. And annunciated all his As.

Delta7
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posted 04-10-2015 12:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"May 17, 1969 Sea Of Tranquility. Gus Grissom photographed by Bill Anders."

It's kind of neat to imagine "what if?" ...

Jonnyed
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posted 04-10-2015 01:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jonnyed   Click Here to Email Jonnyed     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Original 7 group had some really colorful, hell-be-damned characters, didn't they? The stereotypical image of swaggering fighter pilots. The follow-on astronauts groups didn't seem so "unruly." Perhaps NASA reigned them in more, after the Mercury astronauts?

Think that of all the moonwalkers, it was one of the Mercury 7, Alan Shepard, that brings a golf club and golf balls to the moon! He was still living that "out-of-the-box" Mercury 7 life! What prank would Grissom have pulled?!

bklyn55
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posted 04-10-2015 04:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bklyn55   Click Here to Email bklyn55     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Let's go one step further: do you think Ed White would have been on Grissom's team for the first moon landing?

onesmallstep
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posted 04-10-2015 04:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What prank would Grissom have pulled on the moon? Well, I can think of two: take out a corned-beef vacuum-sealed sandwich and hand it to his LMP; or offer a roll of dimes to call Houston in case the comm link failed (shades of his LB7 souvenirs)

moorouge
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posted 04-11-2015 12:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by onesmallstep:
What prank would Grissom have pulled on the moon?

His first words - "It is cheese - Caerphilly!!"

Henry Heatherbank
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posted 04-11-2015 03:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by bklyn55:
...do you think Ed White would have been on Grissom's team for the first moon landing?
No.

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