Fifty one years ago today, the world lost three of the brightest souls it has ever known. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee sacrificed their lives for a purpose larger than themselves, for the conquest of space, so that we could go farther and be safer in the exploration of our universe.
I think about this day more than any other in history, and I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to say today for a while. I’m still at a loss for words. I still struggle to make sense of what happened, why three of the best were taken from us so soon.
They are loved and missed so much.
I wish the whole world could know what they were really like, both as astronaut heroes and everyday people—the way Gus wrinkled his nose when he smiled or the light in his eyes when he was flying, his favorite thing in the world; the sound of Ed’s deep laugh and his poet’s soul; sweet Rog with his brilliant mind and full-hearted optimism, the way he was starting to pick up his commander’s dirty mouth after spending so much time together as a crew.
They were all sons and brothers and husbands and fathers.
They loved their families and their country and they ultimately gave their lives in pursuit of a dream shared by the world, which was only made possible through the lessons learned by their sacrifice. Only G-d knows how many lives they saved from future disasters with their selflessness.
Gus, Ed, and Roger mean more to me than I can put into words and I miss them more than anything. But they knew the risks and they were willing to take them. Their legacies live on and they’ll be remembered as heroes forever. To my bubba, to Dwarde, and to Rog—thank you, I’m so proud of you, I love you to the moon and beyond. Ad astra per aspera.
“There will be risks, as there are in any experimental program, and sooner or later, inevitably, we’re going to run head-on into the law of averages and lose somebody. I hope this never happens, and with NASA’s abiding insistence on safety, perhaps it never will, but if it does I hope the American people won’t feel it’s too high a price to pay for our space program.
“Now for the moon.” –Gus Grissom, writing in January 1967