Although Lawrence County in Indiana is best known as Limestone Country, it is also the home of three United States astronauts. Kenneth D. Bowersox and Charles D. Walker both hail from Bedford. Mitchell is the hometown of Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, the second American in space.
The 50th Anniversary of U.S. Astronaut Gus Grissom's Flight
July 21, 2011 marked the 50th Anniversary of Gus Grissom's first flight into space aboard the capsule named "Liberty Bell 7." The successful flight was followed by a dramatic ending when the capsule was lost at sea after splashdown and Grissom was rescued. The Liberty Bell 7 was recovered and brought to the surface in 1999.
The flight of the Unsinkable Molly Brown was Grissom's second trip into space on March 23, 1965. This capsule is housed at the Grissom Memorial in Spring Mill State Park, near Mitchell, Indiana.
Grissom died on January 27, 1967 aboard Apollo I, when a flash fire broke out in the command module on the launch pad. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and is considered the city of Mitchell's hometown hero.
Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom Memorial
Inside Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, is a tribute to this pioneer of the United States space program. Grissom's actual space suit and one of the capsules he piloted are found in this museum, including actual artifacts of his life and career and interactive exhibits. Open daily 8:30 AM - 4 PM, closed for major holidays.
A 44-foot, 28-ton limestone statue of the Titan II Rocket with Grissom's Gemini III "Unsinkable Molly Brown" capsule stands on the lawn of Mitchell's City Hall. The monument is on the site once occupied by the South Side School, Grissom's elementary school. Bricks from the school were used for the wall surrounding the monument. Hand-carved in the limestone base is the history of Gus Grissom's military and NASA careers.
The monument is located at 409 S. 6th St., Mitchell, IN 47446.
Charles D. Walker was born in Bedford, Indiana, graduated from high school there and received a B.S. degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University. While never a NASA employee, he was confirmed by NASA as the first civilian to fly in space as a CFES Payload Specialist in 1983. Walker completed three Space Shuttle missions and accumulated 20 days in space.
Kenneth D. Bowersox, raised in Bedford, Indiana since the age of 2, graduated from Bedford High School, earned a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy, and a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University. In 1992, his first flight into space was on the Space Shuttle Columbia which at the time was the longest Shuttle flight on record and he logged over 331 hours in space. Bowersox was part of the Endeavor crew that repaired the Hubble Telescope in 1993. When the Columbia disaster occurred in 2002, he was aboard the International Space Station. Fluent in Russian, Bowersox returned to earth months later on board the Russian Soyuz space capsule. During his space career, he piloted three and commanded two Space Shuttles, and was the Expedition 6 Crew Commander of the International Space Station from 2002-2003.