Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Grissom Documentary to Air

The Big Ten Network is more than just sports. At noon on Wednesday, November 16, the network will air a documentary on Hoosier astronaut Gus Grissom. Because of my biography of Grissom, I was interviewed by Purdue University's Jason Doty, who wrote, directed, and edited the program. My interview was conducted at the Grissom Memorial near Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, Indiana, Grissom's hometown. (That's me being interviewed by Jason near the exhibits at the memorial.)

Here's more on the documentary from Purdue:

A documentary highlighting the life, legacy and motivations of Purdue University astronaut alumnus Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom -- the first man to travel into space twice in a capsule vehicle -- will premiere on the Big Ten Network this week.

Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP) produced the documentary for the latest episode of “The Boilermakers” series chronicling famous Purdue graduates.

The Grissom-themed episode will premiere at noon, Wednesday (Nov. 17) as part of the Big Ten Network’s non-athletic programming allotted to each school in the conference. The program is currently scheduled for rebroadcast at 3 a.m., Thursday (Nov. 18). All airtimes are Eastern Standard Time.

The program was originally set to premiere in September but was rescheduled.

This “Boilermakers” installment corresponds with the 60th anniversary of Grissom’s 1950 graduation from Purdue with a degree in mechanical engineering and precedes the upcoming 50th anniversary of Grissom’s 1961 Liberty Bell mission.

After years of small-town anonymity in his native Mitchell, Ind., Grissom achieved instantaneous international celebrity in 1959 when he was named an inaugural astronaut in NASA’s Project Mercury. Grissom was killed along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee (himself a 1957 Purdue graduate with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering) in 1967 at age 40 during a simulation inside NASA’s Apollo 1 command module. He had cut an integral path through several seminal moments of the 20th century, including 100 fighter-pilot missions in the Korean War and test-pilot duty in California.

“Grissom’s life is so compelling that it’s a perfect choice for ‘The Boilermakers,’ ” says Jason Doty, a producer and director with ITaP Video and Multimedia Production Services, which created the profile series (formerly titled “Purdue Profiles”) with 2008 and 2009 programs about basketball legend John Wooden and popcorn entrepreneur Orville Redenbacher.

“From 1926 to 1967, he was involved in so many major events of that era and achieved so much,” Doty says. “We hope this profile finds the humanity in him and the person who lived those moments.”

Doty wrote, produced, directed, edited and conducted all interviews for the Grissom program. It’s introduced and narrated by Randy W. Roberts, a Distinguished Professor of History at Purdue, who has participated in television-documentary projects for HBO, ESPN and the History Channel, among others.

“What stood out for me was just the drama in this life-and-death story,” says Roberts, who has narrated each installment of the profile series. “This is a genuine American hero who died in pursuit of the moon, and it’s just an unusually painful and dramatic story.

“I’m very proud of this series, and I like its idea -- that these people together tell a history of Purdue. When I look at these people, I see in them the personalities of today’s students at Purdue, and I’m proud of that, too. History should tell us something about ourselves, and these documentaries tell us about perseverance, hard work, ambition, ingenuity and the types of students that go to Purdue."

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