Friday, January 27, 2017

Operation AXIOM | The Stars My Destination

Fifty years ago to the day, 27 January 1967, a fire during a launch rehearsal test killed the entire Apollo 1 crew: "Gus" Grissom, Command Pilot; Ed White, Senior Pilot; & Roger Chaffee, Pilot. Apollo 1 was to have been the first manned spaceflight of the Apollo Program.

There had been astronaut deaths before, in jet aeroplane crashes, but Grissom, White, & Chaffee were the first to die in a spacecraft, albeit one still on the ground, & in N.A.S.A.'s official judgment they died in the course of a mission to space. The Apollo 1 disaster delayed the choreographed progression of Apollo spaceflights, imperiling President Kennedy's goal to land men on the Moon & return them safely to Earth by the end of the decade; the first successful manned Apollo spaceflight, would not launch until October 1968. The deaths were not in vain: modifications to the design of the Command Module made in the wake of the fire helped to carry the crews of Apollos 7 & 9 safely to & from Earth orbit & the crews of Apollos 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, & 17 safely to & from the Moon.

Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom was one of the original "Mercury Seven" astronauts & the second American in space; his two successful spaceflights were Mercury-Redstone 4 (the Liberty Bell 7) & Gemini 3 (commanding the Molly Brown, the only named Gemini capsule). Edward H. White II was among the second group of astronauts, the "New Nine;" during Gemini 4, he became the first American to conduct a spacewalk, officially an Extravehicular Activity (E.V.A.). Apollo 1 was to be the first spaceflight for Roger B. Chaffee.

The Command Module for Apollo 1 suffered a catastrophic fire during a ground test, killing all three of her crew, 27 January 1967, fifty years ago today.

Commentary: The Apollo 1 disaster was remembered in the very first year of "The Explorers' Club," during a series on Project Apollo: № XXXV.

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