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Before Neil Armstrong Reached the Moon on Apollo 11 These Astronauts Lost Their Lives on Apollo 1

Apollo 1 continues to cast a shadow on NASA as the organization keeps making advancements in safety protocols to prevent a repeat.
PUBLISHED MAY 18, 2024
Cover Image Source: The crew of the Apollo 1 space mission during training at Cape Canaveral, Florida, January 1967. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
Cover Image Source: The crew of the Apollo 1 space mission during training at Cape Canaveral, Florida, January 1967. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)

Space exploration has answered several essential questions about the universe in the past century and astronauts across the globe dream of embarking on constantly evolving space flights. One such ambitious voyage into space was launched with Apollo 1 by NASA. The agency was under a lot of pressure as they had to deal with Kennedy's ultimatum for American astronauts to step on the moon by 1969, according to Space. But, before Apollo 1's planned launch on Feb. 21, 1967, a tragedy led to the deaths of astronauts who were supposed to embark on the mission. Astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee, went in for a trial run and never came out because of an accidental fire that swept through the command module. Several videos were released by NASA showing the three astronauts entering the spaceship for a trial run.

Image Source: 1967: Virgil I Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee inside a practice module for the aborted Apollo 1 mission at Cape Kennedy, Florida. All three men were killed when a fire swept through the oxygenated Command Module during a pre-flight test on 27th January, 1967. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)
Image Source: 1967: Virgil I Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee inside a practice module for the aborted Apollo 1 mission at Cape Kennedy, Florida. All three men were killed when a fire swept through the oxygenated Command Module during a pre-flight test on 27th January, 1967. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

Prior to this trial run, the astronauts had spent time in a capsule stimulator that made all three of them aware of how things would be in the spacecraft. But to get a more accurate feel of the experience, the trial run was organized. It was facilitated on January 27, 1967, just a month before the actual flight. The three astronauts entered the spacecraft amidst a lot of hope, but it turned into disappointment and sorrow within hours. The person leading the mission was Virgil Grissom, who had already visited space before as part of the Project Mercury program. The next in command was Ed White, who had become the first "American to walk in space." Grissom and White both had a great deal of experience going in for the mission and for Chaffee, this was a first-time job.



 

All three of them entered the space flight excited about the possibilities. But just a few minutes later, chaos ensued. The fire quickly was noticed by the astronauts and they informed the officials. The presence of pure oxygen inside the spaceship aided the spread of fire, and by the time they were able to open the gate of the spaceship, the astronauts had met their demise. The bodies were burnt beyond recognition and the disaster changed the way the organization functioned forever. NASA conducted an exhaustive investigation into the incident. As per Unilad, the investigations revealed that a short circuit might have caused the whole ordeal. Several security measures were undertaken to ensure that nothing like this was repeated. In order to honor the three astronauts, the the first Saturn V launch, scheduled for November 1967 was named Apollo 4. No flight was ever named Apollo 2 or Apollo 3.



 

It was a task for NASA to send astronauts to the moon after this mishap, but they bounced back and just after three years sent a flight of Apollo 11 to the moon with Neil Armstrong on board. In 2017, NASA held a special ceremony to honor the Apollo 1 astronauts on the 50th anniversary of their deaths in 2017. They unveiled a new exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center showing the hatches of the damaged command module.

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