THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
The President Presents the Congressional Space Medal of Honor
President Clinton Presents Congressional Space Medal of Honor December 17, 1997
Today, President Clinton awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, posthumously, to NASA astronauts Lieutenant Commander Roger B. Chaffee and Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. White, II. The Medal is authorized by Congress. Recommendations for potential recipients are made by the NASA Administrator to the President.
On January 27, 1967, NASA astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed when a fire erupted on the launch pad during a preflight test for the Apollo 1 Moon mission. To mark the 30th anniversary of this event, NASA requested and received the President's approval last June to award the Congressional Space Medal, posthumously, to White and Chaffee. (Grissom previously received the Medal as the Apollo 1 commander and one of America's most accomplished astronauts.) Other commemorations of Apollo 1 have taken place throughout the year, including the October induction of Roger Chaffee into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Only ten individuals have ever received the Congressional Space Medal. In 1978, President Carter awarded the first six to John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Frank Borman, Pete Conrad, and Gus Grissom (posthumously). President Reagan gave one to John Young (1981), and President Bush gave one to Tom Stafford (1992). President Clinton presented the Medal to Jim Lovell (1995) and Shannon Lucid (1996).
The families of White and Chaffee, accompanied by Mrs. Betty Grissom (Gus Grissom's widow) and select Members of Congress were present at the ceremony which recognized the nation's significant, but unspoken debt of gratitude to the Apollo 1 crew, whose tragic experience led to the establishment of major safety review processes that helped us land safely on the Moon, and that continue to protect our astronauts today.