Image: Bettmann/Getty Images

A little thud – that’s all Gus Grissom hears before his vessel, bobbing in the middle of the Atlantic, starts to flood with water. The astronaut has no choice but to try and escape. And the helicopters hovering nearby have no idea how much trouble the NASA pilot is in. He has just a few minutes before he feels like he might drown.

Image: NASA

Indeed, Grissom had boarded the Liberty Bell 7 craft with a simple mission. He and the rest of the Project Mercury team hoped to send men into space and get them to orbit the Earth for the first time. The space pilot’s successful launch made him only the second American man in space. But his pioneering spirit couldn’t help him once he returned.

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