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55 Years Ago – Tragedy on the Launch Pad

Posted by Guy Pirro 01/29/2022 10:38AM

55 Years Ago – Tragedy on the Launch Pad

On Jan. 27, 1967, with the planned launch of the first Apollo mission to carry a crew just 25 days away, Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chaffee were conducting a key test with their spacecraft on the launch pad. The test involved a mock countdown with the astronauts wearing spacesuits inside their capsule, sealed and pressurized with oxygen. At the time of simulated liftoff, the plan called for the spacecraft to switch to its own internal power source. The crew also planned an emergency escape drill from the spacecraft at the test’s conclusion. During the test, a flash fire swept through their spacecraft so quickly they had no time to open the hatches. The astronauts perished from toxic gases in the craft’s environmental control system. Each January NASA pauses to honor members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery, including the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia. In 2022, the Day of Remembrance is observed on Jan. 27. This year’s NASA Day of Remembrance also marks 55 years since the Apollo 1 tragedy.


What an awful tragedy with Apollo 1 wherein the astronauts who perished couldn't even open up their own hatch in time to escape. Absolutely brutal and almost beyond comprehension...
Agreed -- Especially in the pure oxygen environment of the Apollo capsule with miles and miles of wiring and electronics.

To quote George Leopold in his recent book on Grissom’s life, called Calculated Risk:

“While Grissom complained long and loud behind the scenes about many of the problems with his spacecraft, he likely tolerated the bad wiring because he, NASA, and its contractors were at that time firmly in the grip of a deadly malady called ‘Go Fever.’

Here's a good article from ArsTechnica that describes the environment at the time: