Monday, February 06, 2012

Remembering the Apollo I Tragedy & History of the Apollo Missions

On January 27, 1967, tragedy struck the Apollo program when a flash fire occurred in command module 012 during a launch pad test of the Apollo/Saturn space vehicle being prepared for the first piloted flight, the AS-204 mission. Three astronauts, Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, a veteran of Mercury and Gemini missions; Lt. Col. Edward H. White, the astronaut who had performed the first United States extravehicular activity during the Gemini program; and Roger B. Chaffee, an astronaut preparing for his first space flight, died in this tragic accident.

A seven-member board, under the direction of the NASA Langley Research Center Director, Dr. Floyd L. Thompson, conducted a comprehensive investigation to pinpoint the cause of the fire. The final report, completed in April 1967 was subsequently submitted to the NASA Administrator. The report presented the results of the investigation and made specific recommendations that led to major design and engineering modifications, and revisions to test planning, test discipline, manufacturing processes and procedures, and quality control. With these changes, the overall safety of the command and service module and the lunar module was increased substantially. The AS-204 mission was redesignated Apollo I in honor of the crew.

--Information from the NASA History Program website

The anniversary of this tragedy which created some beneficial changes to the subsequent Apollo missions is something to be remembered now that the United States embarks on new territory of space exploration with the recent retirement of the space shuttle program. Regardless of the passage of time, the Apollo missions still have a profound impact on modern society. Hollywood, in particular, continues to revisit these moments in space aviation history in such films as Apollo 13 (starring Tom Hanks), Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (where the crew of Apollo 11 seemingly had an alternative agenda to undertake while on the moon), and the recent sci-fi thriller, Apollo 18 (a "what if..?" movie if the Apollo 18 mission had taken place, the Apoll0 18, 19, & 20 missions were scrapped for several possible reasons).

The library display has information on many of the Apollo missions and the forgotten astronauts who made history attempting or reaching the stars. Please visit our library display to enjoy a trip to NASA and pay your respects to the astronauts who gave their lives exploring a vast frontier.

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