595px-Apollo 1 patch

Apollo 1 patch

Apollo 1 (also known Apollo Saturn-204 and AS-204) was scheduled to be the first manned mission of the Apollo manned lunar landing program, with a target launch date of February 21, 1967. A cabin fire during a launch pad test on January 27 at Launch Pad 34 at Cape Canaveral killed all three crew members – Command Pilot Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee – and destroyed the Command Module.[1] The mission name Apollo 1, chosen by the crew, was officially retired by NASA in commemoration of them on April 24, 1967.[1]

Immediately after the fire, NASA convened the Apollo 204 Accident Review Board to determine the cause of the fire. Although the ignition source was never conclusively identified, the astronauts' deaths were attributed to a wide range of lethal design and construction flaws in the early Apollo Command Module. The manned phase of the project was delayed for 20 months while these problems were corrected.

The Saturn IB launch vehicle, SA-204, scheduled for use on this mission, was later used for the first unmanned Lunar Module test flight, Apollo 5.[2] The first successful manned Apollo mission was flown by Apollo 1's backup crew on Apollo 7 in October, 1968.


Position Astronaut
Command Pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom
Senior Pilot Edward H. White II
Pilot Roger B. Chaffee

[1][2] Grissom, Chaffe and White participate in Apollo 1 water egress training, June 1966.===edit First backup crew (April - December 1966)===

Position Astronaut
Command Pilot James A. McDivitt
Senior Pilot David R. Scott
Pilot Russell L. "Rusty" Schweickart
This crew flew on Apollo 9.

edit Second backup crew (December 1966 - January 1967)Edit

Position Astronaut
Command Pilot Walter M. "Wally" Schirra
Senior Pilot Donn F. Eisele
Pilot R. Walter Cunningham
This crew flew on Apollo 7.

Mission backgroundEdit

[3][4] Command Module 012, labeled Apollo One, arrives at Kennedy Space Center, August 26, 1966.AS-204 was to be the first manned test flight of the Apollo Command/Service Module (CSM) to Earth orbit, launched on a Saturn IB rocket. AS-204 was to test launch operations, ground tracking and control facilities and the performance of the Apollo-Saturn launch assembly and would have lasted up to two weeks, depending on how the spacecraft performed.[3]

The CSM for this flight, number 012 built by North American Aviation (NAA), was a Block I version designed before the lunar orbit rendezvous landing strategy was chosen; therefore it lacked capability of docking with the Lunar Module. This was incorporated into the Block II CSM design, along with lessons learned in Block I. Block II would be test-flown with the LM when the latter was ready, and would be used on the Moon landing flights.

NASA announced on March 21, 1966 that Grissom, White and Chaffee had been selected to fly the first manned mission. James McDivitt, David Scott and Rusty Schweickart were named as the backup crew, and Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham were named as the prime crew for a second Block I CSM flight, AS-205. NASA planned to follow this with an unmanned test flight of the LM (AS-206), then the third manned mission would be a dual flight designated AS-278, in which AS-207 would launch the first manned Block II CSM, which would then rendezvous and dock with the LM launched unmanned on AS-208.

At the time, NASA was studying the possibility of flying the first Apollo mission as a joint space rendezvous with the final Project Gemini mission, Gemini 12 in November 1966.[4] But by May, delays in making Apollo ready for flight just by itself, and the extra time needed to incorporate compatibility with the Gemini, made that impractical.[5] This became moot when slippage in readiness of the AS-204 spacecraft caused the last-quarter 1966 target date to be missed, and the mission was rescheduled for February 21, 1967.[6] Grissom was resolved to keep his craft in orbit for a full 14 days if there was any way to do so. [5][6] Chaffee, White, and Grissom training in a simulator of their Command Module cabin, January 19, 1967.A newspaper article published on August 4, 1966 referred to the flight as "Apollo 1".[7] CM-012 arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on August 26, labeled Apollo One by NAA on its packaging.

In October 1966, NASA announced the flight would carry a small television camera to broadcast live from the Command Module. The camera would also be used to allow flight controllers to monitor the spacecraft's instrument panel in flight.[8] Television cameras were carried aboard all manned Apollo missions.

By December 1966, the second Block I flight AS-205 was canceled as unnecessary; and Schirra, Eisele and Cunningham were reassigned as the backup crew for Apollo 1. McDivitt's crew was now promoted to prime crew of the Block II / LM mission, re-designated AS-258 because the AS-205 launch vehicle would be used in place of AS-207. A third manned mission was planned to launch the CSM and LM together on a Saturn V (AS-503) to an elliptical medium Earth orbit, to be crewed by Frank Borman, Michael Collins and William Anders. McDivitt, Scott and Schweikart had started their training for AS-278 in CM-101 when the Apollo 1 accident occurred.

edit Mission insigniaEdit

Grissom's crew received approval in June 1966 to design a mission patch with the name Apollo 1. The design's center depicts a Command/Service Module flying over the southeastern United States with Florida (the launch point) prominent. The Moon is seen in the distance, symbolic of the eventual program goal. A yellow border carries the mission and astronaut names with another border set with stars and stripes, trimmed in gold. The insignia was designed by the crew, with the artwork done by NAA employee Allen Stevens.[9] [10]

edit Spacecraft problemsEdit

[7][8] The Apollo 1 crew expressed their concerns about fire hazards and other problems by presenting this photo to ASPO manager Joseph Shea on August 19, 1966.The Apollo Command/Service Module spacecraft was much bigger and far more complex than any previously implemented spacecraft design. In October 1963, Dr. Joseph F. Shea was named Apollo Spacecraft Program Office (ASPO) manager, responsible for managing the design and construction of both the CSM and the LM. When North American shipped spacecraft CM-012 to Kennedy Space Center on August 26, 1966, there were 113 significant incomplete planned engineering changes, and an additional 623 engineering change orders were made after delivery.[11] Grissom was so frustrated with the inability of the training simulator engineers to keep up with the actual spacecraft changes, that he took a lemon from a tree by his house,[12] and hung it on the simulator.[13]

In a spacecraft review meeting held with Shea on August 19, 1966 (a week before delivery), the crew expressed concern about the amount of flammable material (mainly nylon netting and Velcro) in the cabin, which the technicians found convenient for holding tools and equipment in place. Though Shea gave the spacecraft a passing grade, after the meeting they gave him a crew portrait they had posed with heads bowed and hands clasped in prayer, with the inscription: It isn't that we don't trust you, Joe, but this time we've decided to go over your head.[14] Shea gave his staff orders to tell North American to remove the flammables from the cabin, but did not supervise the issue personally.[15] You sort of have to put that out of your mind. There's always a possibility that you can have a catastrophic failure, of course; this can happen on any flight; it can happen on the last one as well as the first one. So, you just plan as best you can to take care of all these eventualities, and you get a well-trained crew and you go fly.

— Gus Grissom, in a December 1966 interview, [16]


Plugs-out testEdit

[9][10] The block I hatch, as used on Apollo 1, consisted of two pieces, and required pressure inside the cabin be no greater than atmospheric in order to open. A third outer layer, the boost protective hatch cover, is not shown.The January 27, 1967, launch simulation was a "plugs-out" test to determine whether the spacecraft would operate nominally on (simulated) internal power while detached from all cables and umbilicals. Passing this test was essential to making the February 21 launch date. The test was considered non-hazardous because neither the launch vehicle nor the spacecraft was loaded with fuel or cryogenics, and all pyrotechnic systems were disabled.[6]

At 1:00 PM EST (1800 GMT) on January 27, first Grissom, then Chaffee, and White entered the command module fully pressure-suited, and were strapped into their seats and hooked up to the spacecraft's oxygen and communication systems. There was an immediate problem: Grissom noticed a strange odor in the air circulating through his suit which he compared to "sour buttermilk", and the simulated countdown was held at 1:20 PM, while air samples were taken. No cause of the odor could be found, and the countdown was resumed at 2:42 PM. (The accident investigation found this odor not to be related in any way to the fire.)[6]

Three minutes after the count was resumed, the hatch installation was started. The hatch consisted of three parts: a removable inner hatch which stayed inside the cabin; a hinged outer hatch which was part of the spacecraft's heat shield; and an outer hatch cover which was part of the boost protective cover enveloping the entire command module to protect it from aerodynamic heating during launch, and from launch escape rocket exhaust in the event of a launch abort. The boost hatch cover was partially but not fully latched in place, because the flexible boost protective cover was slightly distorted by some cabling run under it to provide the simulated internal power. (The spacecraft's fuel cell reactants were not loaded for this test.) After the hatches were sealed, the air in the cabin was replaced with high-pressure (16.7 psia) pure oxygen.[6]

Further problems included episodes of high oxygen spacesuit flow which tripped an alarm. The likely cause was determined to be the astronauts' movements, which were detected by the spacecraft's inertial guidance gyroscope and Grissom's stuck-open microphone. The open microphone was part of the third major problem, with the communications loop connecting the crew, the Operations and Checkout Building and the Complex 34 blockhouse control room. The problems led Grissom to remark, "How are we going to get to the Moon if we can't talk between three buildings?" The simulated countdown was held again at 5:40 PM while attempts were made to fix the problem. All countdown functions up to the simulated internal power transfer had been successfully completed by 6:20 PM, but at 6:30 the count remained on hold at T minus 10 minutes.[6]


[11][12] Charred remains of the Apollo 1 cabin interiorThe crew members were using the time to run through their checklist again, when a voltage transient was recorded at 6:30:54 (23:30:54 GMT). Ten seconds later (at 6:31:04), after Chaffee said the word "Hey", scuffling sounds followed for three seconds before Grissom reported a fire that began that minute. Chaffee then reported, "We've got a fire in the cockpit," while White responded to Chaffee's comment. After 12 seconds,[17] Chaffee urged the crew to get out of the command module.[17][18] Some witnesses said they saw White on the television monitors, reaching for the inner hatch release handle as flames in the cabin spread from left to right and licked the window. The final voice transmission from the crew was very garbled. "They’re fighting a bad fire—let’s get out. Open ‘er up" or, "We’ve got a bad fire—let’s get out. We’re burning up" or, "I’m reporting a bad fire. I’m getting out." Only 17 seconds after the first indication by crew of any fire, the transmission ended abruptly at 6:31:21 with a cry of pain and then a hiss as the cabin ruptured after rapidly expanding gases from the fire over-pressurized the CM to 29 psi (200 kPa) and burst the cabin interior.[19] [13][14] Exterior of the Command Module was blackened from eruption of the fire after the cabin wall failedFlames and gases then rushed outside the command module through open access panels to two levels of the pad service structure. Intense heat, dense smoke, and ineffective gas masks designed for toxic fumes rather than heavy smoke hampered the ground crew's attempts to rescue the men. There were fears the command module had exploded, or soon would, and that the fire might ignite the solid fuel rockets in the launch escape tower above the command module, which would have likely killed nearby ground personnel. It took five minutes to open all three hatch layers, and they could not drop the inner hatch to the cabin floor as intended, so they pushed it out of the way to one side.[6]

By this time the fire in the command module had gone out, robbed of its high-pressure pure oxygen environment. Although the cabin lights remained lit, the ground crew was at first unable to find the astronauts through the dense smoke. As the smoke cleared they found the bodies but were not able to remove them. The fire had partly melted Grissom's and White's nylon space suits and the hoses connecting them to the life support system. Grissom had removed his restraints and was lying on the floor of the spacecraft. White's restraints were burned through, and he was found lying sideways just below the hatch. It was determined that he had tried to open the hatch per the emergency procedure, but was not able to do so against the internal pressure. Chaffee was found strapped into his right-hand seat, as procedure called for him to maintain communication until White opened the hatch.[6]


As a result of the in-flight failure of the Gemini 8 mission on March 17, 1966, NASA Deputy Administrator Dr. Robert Seamans wrote and implemented Management Instruction 8621.1 on April 14, 1966, defining Mission Failure Investigation Policy And Procedures. This modified NASA's existing accident procedures, based on military aircraft accident investigation, by giving the Deputy Administrator the option of performing independent investigations of "major failures", beyond those failure investigations for which the various Program Office officials were normally responsible. It declared: "It is NASA policy to investigate and document the causes of all major mission failures which occur in the conduct of its space and aeronautical activities and to take appropriate corrective actions as a result of the findings and recommendations."[20]

Immediately after the Apollo 1 fire, Seamans directed establishment of the Apollo 204 Review Board chaired by Langley Research Center director Dr. Floyd L. Thompson, which included astronaut Frank Borman, spacecraft designer Maxime Faget, and six others. To avoid the possible appearance of a conflict of interest, NASA Administrator James E. Webb got the approval of President Lyndon Johnson for an internal NASA investigation, and notified appropriate leaders of Congress. According to Webb's official NASA bio:

"...Webb went to President Lyndon Johnson and asked that NASA be allowed to handle the accident investigation and direct the recovery from the accident. He promised to be truthful in assessing blame and pledged to assign it to himself and NASA management as appropriate."[21]

Seamans immediately ordered all Apollo 1 hardware and software impounded, to be released only under control of the Board. On February 3, two members, a Cornell University professor and North American's Chief engineer for Apollo, left the Board, and a U.S. Bureau of Mines professor joined. After thorough stereo photographic documentation of the CM-012 interior, the board ordered its disassembly using procedures tested by disassembling the identical CM-014, and conducted a thorough investigation of every part. The board also reviewed the astronauts' autopsy results and interviewed witnesses. Seamans sent Webb weekly status reports of the investigation's progress, and the Board issued its final report on April 5, 1967.

According to the Board, Grissom suffered severe third degree burns on over a third of his body and his spacesuit was mostly destroyed. White suffered third degree burns on almost half of his body and a quarter of his spacesuit had melted away. Chaffee suffered third degree burns over almost a quarter of his body and a small portion of his spacesuit was damaged. It was later confirmed the crew had died of smoke inhalation with burns contributing.[22] In later lawsuits brought by Gus Grissom's widow Betty Grissom there were claims the astronauts had lived longer than NASA claimed publicly.[23]

The review board found the documentation for CM-012 so lacking that they were at times unable to determine what had been installed in the spacecraft or what was in it at the time of the accident.

The review board identified five major factors which combined to cause the fire and the astronauts' deaths:

Ignition sourceEdit

The review board determined that the electrical power momentarily failed at 23:30:55 GMT, and found evidence of several electrical arcs in the interior equipment. However, they were unable to conclusively identify a single ignition source. They determined that the fire most probably started near the floor in the lower left section of the cabin, close to the Environmental Control Unit.[22]

They noted a silver-plated copper wire running through an environmental control unit near the center couch had become stripped of its Teflon insulation and abraded by repeated opening and closing of a small access door. This weak point in the wiring also ran near a junction in an ethylene glycol/water cooling line which had been prone to leaks. The electrolysis of ethylene glycol solution with the silver anode was a notable hazard which could cause a violent exothermic reaction, igniting the ethylene glycol mixture in the CM's corrosive test atmosphere of pure, high-pressure oxygen.[24][25]

In 1968, a team of MIT physicists went to Cape Kennedy and performed a static discharge test in the CM-103 command module while it was being prepared for the launch of Apollo 8. With an electroscope, they measured the approximate energy of static discharges caused by a test crew dressed in nylon flight pressure suits and reclining on the nylon flight seats. The MIT investigators found sufficient energy for ignition discharged repeatedly when crew-members shifted in their seats and then touched the spacecraft's aluminum panels.[citation needed]

Flammable materials in the cabinEdit

The review board cited "many types and classes of combustible material" close to ignition sources. The NASA crew systems department had installed 34 square feet (3.2 m2) of Velcro throughout the spacecraft, almost like carpeting. This Velcro was found to be flammable in a high-pressure 100% oxygen environment. Up to 70 pounds of other non-metallic flammable materials had also crept into the design.[citation needed]

Buzz Aldrin states in his book Men From Earth that the flammable material had been removed (per the crew's August 19 complaints and Joseph Shea's order), but was replaced prior to the August 26 delivery to Cape Kennedy.[citation needed]

Pure oxygen atmosphereEdit

[15][16] The Apollo 1 crewmen enter their spacecraft in the altitude chamber at Kennedy Space Center, October 18, 1966.The plugs-out test had been run to simulate the launch procedure, with the cabin pressurized with pure oxygen at the nominal pre-launch level of 16.7 pounds per square inch (115 kPa), 2 psi above standard sea level atmospheric pressure. This is more than five times the 3 psi partial pressure of oxygen in the atmosphere, and provides an environment in which materials not normally considered highly flammable will burst into flame.

The high-pressure oxygen atmosphere was consistent with that used in the Mercury and Gemini programs. The pressure before launch was deliberately greater than ambient in order to drive out the nitrogen-containing air and replace it with pure oxygen. After liftoff, the pressure would have been reduced to the in-flight level of 5 pounds per square inch (34 kPa), providing sufficient oxygen for the astronauts to breathe while reducing the fire risk. The Apollo 1 crew had tested this procedure with their spacecraft in the Operations and Checkout Building altitude (vacuum) chamber on October 18 and 19, 1966, and the backup crew of Schirra, Eisele and Cunningham had repeated it on December 30.[26]

When designing the Mercury spacecraft, NASA had considered using a nitrogen/oxygen mixture to reduce the fire risk near launch, but rejected it based on two considerations. First, nitrogen used with the in-flight pressure reduction carried the clear risk of decompression sickness (known as "the bends"). But the decision to eliminate the use of any gas but oxygen was crystalized when a serious accident occurred on April 21, 1960, in which McDonnell Aircraft test pilot G.B. North passed out and was seriously injured when testing a Mercury cabin / spacesuit atmosphere system in a vacuum chamber. The problem was found to be nitrogen-rich (oxygen-poor) air leaking from the cabin into his spacesuit feed.[27] North American Aviation had suggested using an oxygen/nitrogen mixture for Apollo, but NASA overruled this. The pure oxygen design also carried the benefit of saving weight, by eliminating the need for nitrogen tanks.

In a BBC documentary NASA: Triumph and Tragedy, Jim McDivitt said that NASA had no idea how a 100% oxygen atmosphere would influence burning.[28] Similar remarks by other astronauts were expressed in the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon.[29] Deputy Administrator Seamans has said that NASA's single worst mistake in engineering judgement was not to run a fire test on the Command Module.[citation needed]

Other oxygen firesEdit

Several fires in high-oxygen environments had been known to occur prior to the Apollo fire. For example, in 1962, USAF Colonel B. Dean Smith was conducting a test of the Gemini space suit with a colleague in a pure oxygen chamber at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, when a fire broke out, destroying the chamber. Smith and his partner narrowly escaped.[30]

Other oxygen fire occurrences are documented in certain US reports archived in the National Air and Space Museum,[31] such as:

  • Selection of Space Cabin Atmospheres. Part II: Fire and Blast Hazaards [sic] in Space Cabins. (Emanuel M. Roth; Dept of Aeronautics Medicine and Bioastronautics, Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research. c.1964-1966.)
  • "Fire Prevention in Manned Spacecraft and Test Chamber Oxygen Atmospheres." (MSC. NASA General Working Paper 10 063. October 10, 1966)

On January 28, 1986, the Soviet Union disclosed that cosmonaut Valentin Bondarenko died after a fire in a high-oxygen isolation chamber on March 23, 1961, less than three weeks before the first Vostok manned space flight.[32][33][34] This revelation caused some speculation whether the Apollo 1 disaster might have been averted had NASA been aware of the incident.[35]

Hatch designEdit

The higher than atmospheric cabin pressure made it impossible for the senior pilot to remove the inner hatch, until the excess cabin pressure (16.7 psi absolute, 2 psi above ambient) had been vented. Emergency procedure called for the command pilot to open the cabin vent, but this was located near the origin of the fire, and while the system could easily vent the normal pressure, it was utterly incapable of handling the extra increase in pressure (to at least 29 psi absolute) caused by the fire.[6]

North American had originally suggested the hatch open outward and use explosive bolts to blow the hatch in case of emergency, as had been done in Project Mercury. NASA didn't agree, arguing the hatch could accidentally open, as it had on Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 flight, so the inward-opening hatch was selected early in the Block I design.[citation needed]

Before the fire, the Apollo astronauts had recommended changing the design to an outward-opening hatch, and this was already slated for inclusion in the Block II Command Module design. According to Donald K. Slayton's testimony before the House investigation of the accident, this was based on ease of exit for spacewalks and at the end of flight, rather than for emergency exit.[36]

Emergency preparednessEdit

The board noted that: the test planners had failed to identify the test as hazardous; the emergency equipment (such as gas masks) were inadequate to handle this type of fire; that fire, rescue and medical teams were not in attendance; and that the spacecraft work and access areas contained many hindrances to emergency response such as steps, sliding doors and sharp turns.[22]

Political falloutEdit

[17][18] Deputy Administrator Seamans, Administrator Webb, Manned Space Flight Administrator George E. Mueller, and Apollo Program Director Phillips testify before a Senate hearing on the Apollo accident.Committees in both houses of the US Congress with oversight of the space program soon launched their own investigations, including the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, chaired by Senator Clinton P. Anderson. Seamans, Webb, Manned Space Flight Administrator Dr. George Mueller, and Apollo Program Director Maj Gen Samuel C. Phillips were called to testify before Sen. Anderson's committee.

In the February 27 hearing, Senator Walter F. Mondale asked Webb if he knew of a "report" of extraordinary problems with the performance of North American Aviation on the Apollo contract. Webb replied he did not, and deferred to his subordinates on the witness panel. Mueller and Phillips responded they too were unaware of any such "report".

However, in late 1965, just over one year before the accident, Phillips had headed a "tiger team" investigating the causes of inadequate quality, schedule delays, and cost overruns in both the Apollo CSM and the Saturn V second stage (for which North American was also prime contractor.) He gave an oral presentation (with transparencies) of his team's findings to Mueller and Seamans, and also presented them in a memo to North American president Lee Atwood, to which Mueller appended his own strongly worded memo to Atwood.[37] Mondale said he had been told of the existence of the "Phillips report", and Seamans was afraid that Mondale might be in possession of a hard copy of the presentation, so he said tentatively that contractors have occasionally been given negative reviews, but that he knew of no such extraordinary report. Mondale raised controversy over "the Phillips Report", despite Phillips' refusal to characterize it as such before Congress, and was angered by what he perceived as Webb's deception and concealment of important program problems from Congress, and questioned NASA's selection of North American as prime contractor.[38] Webb eventually provided a controlled copy of Phillips' memo to Congress. Seamans later wrote that Webb roundly chastised him in the cab ride leaving the hearing, for volunteering information which led to the disclosure of Phillips' memo.[citation needed]

The committee noted in its final report NASA's testimony that "the findings of the [Phillips] task force had no effect on the accident, did not lead to the accident, and were not related to the accident,"[39] but stated in its recommendations: "Notwithstanding that in NASA's judgement the contractor later made significant progress in overcoming the problems, the committee believes it should have been informed of the situation. The committee does not object to the position of the Administrator of NASA, that all details of Government/contractor relationships should not be put in the public domain. However, that position in no way can be used as an argument for not bringing this or other serious situations to the attention of the committee."[40] Freshman Senators Edward Brooke and Charles H. Percy jointly wrote an "Additional Views" section appended to the committee report, expressing a bit more strongly that the Phillips review should have been disclosed to Congress. Mondale wrote his own Additional View, voicing his complaints in the most strongly worded terms.[41]

The potential political threat to Apollo blew over, due in large part to the support of President Lyndon Johnson, who at the time still wielded a measure of influence with the Congress from his own Senatorial experience. He was a staunch supporter of NASA since its inception, had even recommended the Moon program to President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and was skilled at portraying it as part of Kennedy's legacy.

But internal acrimony developed between NASA and North American over assignment of blame. North American argued unsuccessfully that it was not responsible for the fatal error in spacecraft atmosphere design. Finally, Webb contacted Atwood, and demanded that either he or Chief Engineer Harrison "Stormy" Storms resign. Atwood elected to fire Storms.[42]

On the NASA side, Joseph Shea became unfit for duty in the aftermath and was removed from his position, although not fired.[43]

Program recoveryEdit

From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: 'Tough' and 'Competent.' Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities... Competent means we will never take anything for granted... Mission Control will be perfect. When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write 'Tough and Competent' on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room, these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control. Gene Kranz, speech given to Mission Control after the accident.[44][45]Gene Kranz called a meeting of his staff in Mission Control three days after the accident, delivering a speech which has subsequently become one of NASA's principles.[44] Speaking of the errors and overall attitude surrounding the Apollo program before the accident, he stated: "We were too “gung-ho” about the schedule and we locked out all of the problems we saw each day in our work. Every element of the program was in trouble and so were we."[45] He reminded the team of the perils and mercilessness of their endeavor, and stated the new requirement that every member of every team in mission control be "tough and competent", requiring nothing less than perfection throughout NASA's programs.[45] 36 years later, following the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, then-NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe quoted Kranz's speech, adopting it in principle to honor the lives of Apollo 1's and Columbia's astronauts.[44]

Command Module redesignEdit

After the fire, the Apollo project was grounded for review and re-design. The Command Module was found to be extremely hazardous and in some instances, carelessly assembled (for example, a misplaced socket wrench was found in the cabin.)[46]

It was decided that remaining Block I spacecraft would only be used for unmanned Saturn V test flights. All manned missions would use the Block II spacecraft, to which many Command Module design changes were made:

  • The cabin atmosphere at launch was changed to 60% oxygen and 40% nitrogen at sea-level pressure (14.7 psi or 1013 millibars). During ascent the cabin rapidly vented down to 5 psi (345 millibars), releasing approximately 2/3 of the gas originally present at launch. The vent then closed and the environmental control system maintained a nominal cabin pressure of 5 psi as the spacecraft continued into vacuum. The cabin was then very slowly purged (vented to space and simultaneously replaced with 100% oxygen), so the nitrogen concentration fell asymptotically to zero over the next day. Although the new cabin launch atmosphere was significantly safer than 100% oxygen, it still contained almost three times the amount of oxygen present in ordinary sea level air (20.9% oxygen). This was necessary to ensure a sufficient partial pressure of oxygen when the astronauts removed their helmets after reaching orbit. (60% of 5 psi is 3 psi, compared to 20.9% of 14.7 psi, or 3.07 psi in sea-level air.)
  • The environment within the astronauts' pressure suits was not changed. Because of the rapid drop in cabin (and suit) pressures during ascent, decompression sickness was likely unless the nitrogen had been purged from the astronauts' tissues prior to launch. They would still breathe pure oxygen, starting several hours before launch, until they removed their helmets on orbit. Avoiding the "bends" was considered worth the residual risk of an oxygen-accelerated fire within a suit.
  • Nylon used in the Block I suits was replaced in the Block II suits with Beta cloth, a non-flammable, highly melt-resistant fabric woven from fiberglass and coated with Teflon.
  • Block II had already been planned to use a completely redesigned hatch which opened outward, and could be opened in less than ten seconds. Concerns of accidental opening were addressed by using a cartridge of pressurized nitrogen to drive the release mechanism in an emergency, instead of the explosive bolts used on Project Mercury.
  • Flammable materials in the cabin were replaced with self-extinguishing versions.
  • Plumbing and wiring were covered with protective insulation.
  • 1,407 wiring problems were corrected.

Thorough protocols were implemented for documenting spacecraft construction and maintenance.

In July 2009, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 first Moon landing, archived notes made by Apollo astronauts Charles Duke and Jack Swigert on the accident investigation and re-design were donated to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, and were digitized and made accessible on the Internet.[47]

New mission naming schemeEdit

The astronauts' widows asked that Apollo 1 be reserved for the flight their husbands never made, and on April 24, 1967, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, Dr. George E. Mueller, announced this change officially: AS-204 would be recorded as Apollo 1, "first manned Apollo Saturn flight - failed on ground test."[1] Since three unmanned Apollo missions (AS-201, AS-202, and AS-203) had previously occurred, the next mission, the first unmanned Saturn V test flight (AS-501) would be designated Apollo 4, with all subsequent flights numbered sequentially in the order flown. The first three flights would not be renumbered, and the names Apollo 2 and Apollo 3 would go unused.[48]

The manned flight hiatus allowed work to catch up on the Saturn V and Apollo Lunar Module, which were encountering their own delays. Apollo 4 flew in November 1967. Apollo 1's (AS-204) Saturn IB rocket was taken down from Launch Complex 34, later reassembled at Launch Complex 37B and used to launch Apollo 5, an unmanned Earth orbital test flight of the first Lunar Module LM-1, in January 1968. A second unmanned Saturn V AS-502 flew as Apollo 6 in April 1968, and Grissom's backup crew of Wally Schirra, Don Eisele, and Walter Cunningham, finally flew the first manned mission AS-205, Apollo 7, in a Block II CSM in October 1968.


[19][20] The names of the three astronauts on the Space Mirror at the Kennedy Space Center.Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee were buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Ed White was buried at the cemetery of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Their names are among those of several astronauts and cosmonauts who have died in the line of duty, listed on the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Florida.

An Apollo 1 mission patch was left on the Moon's surface after the first manned lunar landing by Apollo 11 crew members Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.[49]

Launch Complex 34Edit

Main article: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 34[21][22] Launch pedestal at LC-34 with Apollo 1 dedication plaque visible on rear of right post [23][24] Memorial kiosk at Pad 34After the Apollo 1 fire, Launch Complex 34 was subsequently used only for the launch of Apollo 7 and later dismantled down to the concrete launch pedestal, which remains at the site (28.52182°N 80.561258°W) along with a few other concrete and steel-reinforced structures. The pedestal bears two plaques commemorating the crew. Each year the families of the Apollo 1 crew are invited to the site for a memorial, and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center includes the site in its tour of the historic Cape Canaveral launch sites. [25][26] Dedication plaque attached to launch platform at LC-34, reads: LAUNCH COMPLEX 34, Friday, 27 January 1967, 1831 Hours. Dedicated to the living memory of the crew of the Apollo 1: USAF. Lt. Colonel Virgil I. Grissom, USAF. Lt. Colonel Edward H. White, II, U.S.N. Lt. Commander Roger B. Chaffee. They gave their lives in service to their country in the ongoing exploration of humankind's final frontier. Remember them not for how they died but for those ideals for which they lived.[27][28] Memorial plaque attached to launch platform at LC-34, reads: In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so others could reach for the stars; Ad astra per aspera (a rough road leads to the stars); God speed to the crew of Apollo 1[29][30] Granite memorial benches on the southern edge of the launch padIn January 2005, three granite benches, built by a college classmate of one of the astronauts, were installed at the site on the southern edge of the launch pad. Each bears the name of one of the astronauts and his military service insignia.

edit Stars, landmarks on the Moon and MarsEdit

  • Apollo astronauts frequently aligned their spacecraft inertial navigation platforms and determined their positions relative to the Earth and Moon by sighting sets of stars with optical instruments. As a practical joke, the Apollo 1 crew named three of the stars in the Apollo catalog after themselves and introduced them into NASA documentation. Gamma Cassiopeiae became Navi -- Ivan, Gus Grissom's middle name spelled backwards (also short for "Navigation"). Iota Ursae Majoris became Dnoces -- "Second" spelled backwards, for Edward H. White II. And Gamma Velorum became Regor -- Roger (Chaffee) spelled backwards. These names quickly stuck after the Apollo 1 accident and were regularly used by later Apollo crews.[50]
  • Craters on the Moon and hills on Mars are named after the three Apollo 1 astronauts.

edit Civic and other memorialsEdit

  • Grissom Hall, student residence hall at the Florida Institute of Technology
  • Three public schools in Huntsville, Alabama (home of George C. Marshall Space Flight Center and the United States Space & Rocket Center): Virgil I. Grissom High School,[51] Ed White Middle School,[52] and Roger B. Chaffee Elementary.[53]
  • Virgil Grissom Elementary School in Princeton, Iowa[54] and Edward White Elementary School in Eldridge, Iowa [55] are both part of the North Scott Community School District also naming the other three elementary schools after astronauts Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and Alan Shepard.[56]
  • Edward White Middle School in White's hometown of San Antonio, Texas.[57]
  • Edward H. White II High School in Jacksonville, Florida[58]
  • Edward H. White II Elementary School, El Lago, Texas[59]
  • Edward H. White II Memorial Youth Center, Seabrook, Texas[60]
  • Virgil Grissom Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma[61]
  • Roger B. Chaffee Elementary School at the former Naval Air Station Bermuda (closed)
  • Virgil I. Grissom Middle School in Sterling Heights, Michigan, part of Warren Consolidated Schools
  • Virgil I. Grissom Middle School in Mishawaka, Indiana, part of the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation
  • A memorial to Grissom in Spring Mill State Park, near his hometown of Mitchell, Indiana. In Mitchell itself is the town's Gus Grissom Memorial. Mitchell High School's auditorium is also named for him.
  • Three man-made oil drilling islands in the harbor off Long Beach, California are named Grissom, White and Chaffee. A fourth island is named for Theodore Freeman,[62][63] an Air Force test pilot chosen as an astronaut in 1963 but who was killed while piloting a T-38 jet when it crashed at Ellington AFB.
  • A road that formerly ran through Kent County International Airport (GRR) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Chaffee's hometown, was named Roger B. Chaffee Memorial Boulevard after the airport was moved further from the city limits.
  • The Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium is located at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.[64]
  • White Hall and Grissom Hall at the former Chanute Air Force Base (closed, 1993) in Rantoul, Illinois
  • The names of Grissom, White and Chaffee were used for streets in Amherst, NY. These are connected to Niagara Falls Boulevard and located near the Bell plant, where the X planes were built in the 1940s. There is a museum dedicated to the work of Bell in the aeronautic sciences. The roads commemorating White and Chaffee are still in existence, however a local restaurant purchased the entire length of Grissom Drive, and renamed it against the protests of the local citizenry and the town board.[citation needed]
  • Three adjacent parks in Fullerton, California are each named for Grissom, Chaffee and White. The parks are located near a former Hughes Aircraft research and development facility. A Hughes subsidiary, Hughes Space and Communications Company, built components for Project Apollo.[65]
  • Grissom Air Reserve Base (formerly Grissom Air Force Base, formerly Bunker Hill Air Force Base, 65 miles (105 km) north of Indianapolis) in Grissom's home state of Indiana was renamed for Grissom on May 12, 1968.
  • The three letter identifier of the VOR located at Grissom Air Reserve Base is GUS, Grissom's nickname
  • Two buildings on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana are named for Grissom and Chaffee (both Purdue alumni). Grissom Hall houses the School of Industrial Engineering (and was home to the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics before it moved into the new Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering). Chaffee Hall is the administration complex of Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories where thermal sciences and rocket propulsion are studied.
  • Grissom Parkway runs between Cocoa and Titusville, Florida, intersecting White Drive and Chaffee Drive near the Titusville Police Department.
  • Virgil I. Grissom Library in Newport News, Virginia
  • Virgil I. Grissom Bridge across the Hampton River, on Rt 258 (Mercury Blvd, named after the Mercury program) in Hampton, Virginia, is one of the six bridges and one road named after the original seven Mercury astronauts, who trained in the area.
  • Edward White Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Three trees (one for each astronaut) were planted on NASA grounds at Johnson Space Center in Houston, not far from the Saturn V building, along with trees for each astronaut from the Challenger and Columbia disasters. Tours of the space center pause briefly near the grove for a moment of silence, and the trees can be seen from nearby Nasa Road One.
  • Roger B. Chaffee scholarship fund in Grand Rapids, Michigan each year in memory of Chaffee honors one student who intends to pursue a career in engineering or the sciences. [66]

edit Remains of CM-012Edit

The Apollo 1 command module has never been on public display. After the accident, the spacecraft was removed and taken to Kennedy Space Center to facilitate the review board's disassembly in order to investigate the cause of the fire. When this was complete, it was moved to the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia and placed in a secured storage warehouse.

On February 17, 2007 the wreckage of CM-012 was moved approximately 100 feet (30 m) to a newer, environmentally controlled warehouse.[67] Only a few weeks earlier, Gus Grissom's brother Lowell publicly suggested CM-012 be permanently entombed in the concrete remains of Launch Complex 34.[68]

In September 2010 the Grissom Air Museum in Peru, Indiana, located near Grissom Air Reserve Base, made a request to be permitted to display the Apollo 1 Command Module.[citation needed]

Popular cultureEdit


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  2. ^
  3. ^ Benson 1978: Chapter 18-1 - The Fire That Seared The Spaceport, "Introduction"
  4. ^ "3 Crewmen Picked For 1st Apollo Flight", Palm Beach Post, March 21, 1966
  5. ^ "Apollo Shot May Come This Year", UPI story, Bonham Daily Favorite newspaper, May 5, 1966
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  7. ^ "'Open End' Orbit Planned for Apollo". Pittsburgh Press. UPI: p. 20. Aug. 4, 1966. Retrieved Nov. 11, 2010.
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  9. ^ Dorr, Eugene. "Space Mission Patches - Apollo 1 Patch". Retrieved 2009-07-18.
  10. ^ Hengeveld, Ed. "The man behind the Moon mission patches". collectSPACE. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
  11. ^ Report of Apollo 204 Review Board
  12. ^ Mary C., White. "Gus Grissom". Detailed Biographies of Apollo I Crew. NASA History. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  13. ^ Courtney G Brooks, James M. Grimwood, Loyd S. Swenson (1979). "Chapter 8 Part 7". Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft. NASA. ISBN 0-486-46756-2. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
  14. ^ Murray, Charles, & Cox, Catherine. Apollo: The Race to the Moon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), p. 184.
  15. ^ Murray and Cox, Apollo, p. 185.
  16. ^ Wilford, John (1969). We Reach the Moon; the New York Times Story of Man's Greatest Adventure. New York: Bantam Paperbacks. p. 95. ISBN 0373063690.
  17. ^ a b David Shayler (2000). Disasters and accidents in manned spaceflight. Springer. p. 105.
  18. ^ Richard W. Orloff; David Michael Harland (2006). Apollo: the definitive sourcebook. Springer Science & Business. p. 114.
  19. ^ Seamans, Robert C., Jr. (1967-04-05). "Memorandum". Report of Apollo 204 Review Board. NASA History Office.
  20. ^ Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr. (April 5, 1967). "NASA Management Instruction 8621.1 April 14, 1966". Apollo 204 Review Board Final Report. NASA. Retrieved March 7, 2011.
  21. ^ "James E. Webb - NASA Administrator, February 14, 1961-October 7, 1968".
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  23. ^ See Dennis E. Powell, "Obviously, A Major Malfunction" Miami [Fla.] Herald Sunday magazine, November 13, 1988.
  24. ^ "NASA history SP-4009".
  25. ^ In 1967 a vice president of North American Aviation, John McCarthy, speculated that Grissom had accidentally "scuffed the insulation of a wire" while moving about the spacecraft, but his remarks were ignored by the review board and strongly rejected by a congressional committee. Frank Borman, who had been the first astronaut to go inside the burned spacecraft, testified, "We found no evidence to support the thesis that Gus, or any of the crew members kicked the wire that ignited the flammables." A 1978 history of the accident written internally by NASA said at the time, "the spark that led to the fire still has wide currency at Kennedy Space Center. Men differ, however, on the cause of the scuff." (Benson 1978: Chapter 18-6 - The Fire That Seared The Spaceport, "The Review Board", retrieved May 12, 2008) Soon after making his comment McCarthy had said, "I only brought it up as a hypothesis." ("Blind Spot". Time Magazine. 1967-04-21. Retrieved 2008-05-21.)
  26. ^ Benson 1978: Chapter 18-3 - The Spacecraft Comes to KSC
  27. ^ Giblin, Kelly A.. "Fire in the Cockpit!". Invention & Technology Magazine. American Heritage Publishing. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
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  30. ^ Colonel B. Dean Smith (2006). The Fire That NASA Never Had. PublishAmerica. ISBN 978-1424125746.
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  33. ^ Rex D. Hall, David J. Shayler and Bert Vis (2005). Russia’s Cosmonauts, Inside the Yuri Gagarin Training Center. Chichester, UK: Praxis Publishing, Ltd.. pp. 75–77.
  34. ^ >David Scott and Alexei Leonov (2004). Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race. New York City: Thomas Dunne Books.
  35. ^ Charles, John (2007-01-29). "Could the CIA have prevented the Apollo 1 fire?". The Space Review. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
  36. ^ Benson 1978: Chapter 18-2 - The Fire That Seared The Spaceport, "Predictions of Trouble"
  37. ^ Garber, Steve (February 3, 2003). "NASA Apollo Mission Apollo-1 -- Phillips Report". NASA History Office. Retrieved April 14, 2010.
  38. ^ On May 11, Webb issued a statement defending the selection. On June 9, Seamans filed a seven-page memorandum documenting the process that led to North American's selection in November 1961. "CSM Source Selection". Encyclopedia Astronautica.
  39. ^ Anderson, p. 7
  40. ^ Anderson, p. 11
  41. ^ Anderson, p. 16
  42. ^ Storms interview with historian James Burke for BBC television "The Other Side of the Moon." May 18, 1979. See youtube version (at 28:11)
  43. ^ Murray, Charles, & Cox, Catherine. Apollo: The Race to the Moon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), pp. 213–14.
  44. ^ a b c Briefing of "NASA Update on the Space Shuttle Columbia" (Disaster) by NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe and Scott Hubbard on August 26, 2003
  45. ^ a b c E. Kranz 2000, p. 204
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  48. ^ "Apollo 11 30th Anniversary: Manned Apollo Missions". NASA History Office. 1999. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  49. ^ Jones, Eric M. (editor). "Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal: EASEP Deployment and Closeout". NASA.
  50. ^ "Post-landing Activities". Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Journal. 2006-01-15. Retrieved 2007-07-26. Section 105:11:33.
  51. ^ "Virgil I. Grissom High School". Huntsville City Schools. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
  52. ^ "Ed White MIddle School". Huntsville City Schools. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
  53. ^ "Roger B. Chaffee Elementary School". Huntsville City Schools. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
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  57. ^ "Edward H. White Middle School". North East Independent School District - San Antonio, Texas. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
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  59. ^ "Edward H. White Elementary". Duval County Public Schools. Retrieved 2008-07-11.
  60. ^ "Ed White Memorial Youth Center". Ed White Memorial Youth Center. Archived from the original on 2008-02-12. Retrieved 2008-07-11.
  61. ^ "Grissom Elementary School". Tulsa Public Schools. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
  62. ^ Fallen Astronaut
  63. ^ pdf of City of Long Beach Economic Zones
  64. ^ "Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium". Grand Rapids Public Museum. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
  65. ^ "Chaffee Park, Rosecrans Avenue, Fullerton, CA - Google Maps". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
  66. ^
  67. ^ Weil, Martin (2007-02-18). "Ill-Fated Apollo 1 Capsule Moved to New Site". The Washington Post: p. C5.
  68. ^ "Apollo 1 astronauts honored at Cape". Palm Beach Post. 2007-01-27. Retrieved 2007-11-14.


Kranz, Eugene (2000). Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. Berkley Publishing Corporation. ISBN 978-0425179871.

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