Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Space Museum in Bonne Terre, MO Dedicates Grissom Center, Part 3: Museum Tours and Autograph Sessions

By Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl
The Space Museum in Bonne Terre, Missouri dedicated their newest gallery during a public event held on Saturday, March 16. Hundreds of visitors from the local area and from around the country joined with astronauts, aerospace engineers, prominent authors and media representatives to celebrate the opening of the Grissom Center, named for astronaut Gus Grissom. The tickets for the meet-and-greet session and panel discussion were sold out, but the public was encouraged to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the museum galleries. The Grissom Center is located in the Heritage Hall building next to the original museum location and will be open during regular visiting hours.


Following the pre-event interviews and ribbon-cutting ceremony featured in Part 2 of this series, the Grissom Center was open for tours for event ticket-holders. The gallery was full with visitors until the mid-day shift to the auditorium for the panel discussion. Highlights of the tour included the large-scale spacecraft models, full-scale rocket motors and the Space Shuttle launch experience. 

The Aero Experience team mingled among the guests inside the Grissom Center, and we enjoyed visiting with everyone as they marveled at the exhibits. Featured below are Lowell and Scott Grissom, the HEC-TV crew and members of Mac's Old Team - McDonnell Douglas engineers who played a part in the design and production of the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft - Norman Beckel, Dean Purdy and Ray Tucker.   

Two other special guests visiting the Grissom center were George Baldwin and Darrel Boren, both of whom had critical pre-launch roles to play during the Mercury and Gemini flights. Baldwin (standing left in the photo below) was a young engineer at McDonnell Aircraft in the 1950s when the company began designing the Mercury spacecraft. He volunteered for the project and assisted with launch preparation at Cape Canaveral for each flight. As Manufacturing Foreman on the launch pad, he prepared Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft and secured the hatch. Darrel Boren (seated to his right in the photo) was an Electronics and Instrument Technician at McDonnell Aircraft, and he performed the instrument checks on the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft before launch. He was the last person inside Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 prior to the astronaut himself. His name was one of those on a U.S. dollar bill found in the Liberty Bell 7 after it was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean in 1999. He is also pictured below with The Space Museum President, Earl Mullins.  

Two special guests at the Grissom Center dedication day event were also members of the panel discussion group: authors George Leopold and Jerry Ross were available to autograph their books in the Grissom Center gift shop. George Leopold is a veteran science and technology writer who has extensively covered the U.S. Manned Space Program. His recent book, Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom, chronicles the life of astronaut Gus Grissom within the context of the space program in the political environment of the Cold War. Seven years in the making, this book provides a fresh view of the understated man who played a critical role in landing Americans on the moon.           

Astronaut Jerry Ross was also in the Grissom Center gift shop autographing his latest book, Spacewalker: My Journey In Space and Faith as NASA's Record-Setting Frequent Flyer. Jerry Ross flew an amazing seven space flights aboard the U.S. Space Shuttle, spent 1,393 hours in space, performed nine space walks and was involved with the assembly of the International Space Station. He is an Indiana native and a graduate of Purdue University, as was Gus Grissom. His book shows how a boy from rural Indiana overcame obstacles through hard work and his Christian faith to become one of NASA's most accomplished space travelers.  

Pictured below are George Leopold (left) and Jerry Ross autographing their books. Also pictured is Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum President, Mark Nankivil, receiving his copy of Calculated Risk.

While some visitors were touring the museum and getting their books signed, others were upstairs in Heritage Hall in line to meet the astronaut and celebrity guests who would later participate in the afternoon panel discussion. Here we feature the autograph session with the panel members listed in the order they were seated: Astronaut Dr. Linda Godwin, Astronaut Tom Akers, Astronaut Charles Walker, Astronaut Dick Richards, Flight Director Rob Kelso and Public Television's Janet Ivey, host of the educational program, Janet's Planet. We will have full coverage of the panel discussion members in Part 4 at the conclusion of this series. 

The morning session activities were timed perfectly to conclude during the lunch hour, giving plenty of time to walk or ride the shuttle a few blocks to the auditorium where the panel discussion was to take place. Check back soon for more coverage of The Space Museum Grissom Center dedication event on The Aero Experience!

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