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11/28/2005
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Teen Takes On Smithsonian In Bid To Reclaim Spacesuit

A tenacious teen is seeking a corporate backer for her attempts to return the late astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom's spacesuit to his home state of Indiana.

A tenacious teen is seeking a corporate backer for her attempts to return the late astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom’s spacesuit to his home state of Indiana.

Fifteen-year-old Amanda Meyer says that Grissom, who died on January 27, 1967 in a flash fire in the spacecraft he was training to fly on the first manned Apollo mission, is her hero. She has visited his grave in Arlington National Cemetery and has viewed mission artifacts housed at the Kennedy Space Center

Earlier this year, she spoke with Grissom’s son Scott. That’s when her crusade began. As Meyer relates on her Web site, she learned that Betty Grissom had kept one of her husband's spacesuits for about 30 years before loaning it to the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

According to accounts from Meyer and several media outlets, members of the Grissom family asked for the Gemini suit back but were told it was government property, notwithstanding Betty Grissom’s claim that her late husband though had rescued it from the trash. Scott Grissom did not return calls for comment for this story and Betty Grissom could not be reached.

NASA claims the astronaut signed the spacesuit out for a presentation. In 2003, ownership of the museum housing the suit was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian maintains that there is no question of government ownership, even if the suit hung in a private closet for decades. It remains at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Meyer, who lives in Madison, Conn., has created an online petition, which presents a compromise she hopes to achieve. She believes the Virgil Grissom Memorial Museum, near the astronaut's birthplace of Mitchell, Ind. would be an appropriate location and would allow both sides to save face. The museum houses Grissom's Gemini spacecraft and spacesuit.

Meyer has appealed to every member of the U.S. Senate, gained a following of thousands of supporters, and recently mailed a registered letter to Vice President Dick Cheney. She is also hoping to speak before the Senate.

On her Web site, Meyer wrote that the Smithsonian agreed to send the suit to the memorial museum but it would cost about $23,000 to clean and transport the suit from Florida and to store it in Indiana. Though the Smithsonian Institution recently signed an agreement to keep the suit on loan in Florida for another two years nixing hopes for transfer anytime soon, Meyer is pressing on with her request for corporate backing.

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