July 2011 marks the 50 year anniversary that Lawrence County native Virgil “Gus” Grissom became the second American to travel in space. To commemorate the fact, Mitchell, Indiana — Grissom’s hometown — and Lawrence County will celebrate the anniversary with special events, exhibits, lectures, and a parade the weekend of July 21 – 23. Grissom and two other astronauts died in a fire in the Apollo I capsule while they were preparing for another mission after Grissom’s historic flight.
Spring Mill State Park, Bedford, and Mitchell will all host special events. You can find a complete calendar of events at the LibertyBell7 website.
There will be a special Launch Breakfast at the Spring Mill Inn, at 7 am on Thursday, July 21. That’s the day Grissom became the second American to launch into space inside his Liberty Bell capsule at 7:20 am. After the breakfast, members of the original Mercury spacecraft design team will participate in a panel discussion. Tickets to the breakfast and panel discussion are available at the Mitchell City Hall, 407 S. 6th St., or by calling (812) 849-5161.
Lawrence County must be a hotbed of astronaut creation, because it turns out two other astronauts are from Bedford as well. Charlie Walker was a crew member on several space shuttle missions, and Ken Bowersox was a crew commander on the International Space Station. The two men will speak at the Friday Focus Luncheon, sponsored by the Bedford Chamber of Commerce. Get tickets by calling (812) 275-4493 or email bedford [at] bedfordchamber [dot] com.
Finally, if you find yourself in Mitchell, visit the Grissom Monument, a 44 foot, limestone statue of the Redstone Rocket with the Liberty Bell 7 capsule.