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Old January 28 2009, 02:51 AM   #1
Mr. Laser Beam
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Remembering Apollo One

Forty-two years ago today...the AS-204 (renamed after the disaster to Apollo One) tragedy happened.

For those not in the know: During the 'plugs-out' test (the first test with all of the supply connections to the ground removed - rather like taking the training wheels off a bike), there was a spark behind a console on the spacecraft. Because the air was super-saturated with oxygen, the resulting fire spread out of control, and all three astronauts - Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee - were killed. Not from the fire itself, but from the smoke. Smoke inhalation is, I believe, more instantly lethal than fire...

Now I wasn't alive when this happened, but for those of you who were, how did you find out? What was your reaction?
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Old January 28 2009, 05:27 AM   #2
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Re: Remembering Apollo One

I was blissfully unaware ... playing outside in the snow, no doubt. Or perhaps playing "vroom-vroom" with my Christmas presents.

Once I did learn about it, I was amazed at the apparent stupidity of pressurizing the capsule with pure oxygen. "Duh, what do you expect to happen?" But there was a very good reason, with pure oxygen, it was possible to reduce the cabin pressure considerably, reducing capsule mass and stress on the pressure compartment. The Russians had also lost a cosmonaut to this same problem six years earlier, but due to Cold War tensions and secrecy, we in the west never learned about this until decades later.

Sadly, the crew didn't die instantly, although I'd prefer if you were correct. They attempted to battle the blaze, and may have attempted to escape. NASA's Apollo 1 Fire Timeline is thorough with details ... starting at 23:31:04, the crew became aware of the problem.
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Old January 28 2009, 05:36 AM   #3
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Re: Remembering Apollo One

My Dad worked at the Kennedy Space center ..He came home late..his face ashen, he talked to my mom in low tones..and later watching TV, I found out "Gus " had died..I actually met Gus Grissom some months before..
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Old January 28 2009, 04:24 PM   #4
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Re: Remembering Apollo One

I was around, but too young to realize what was going on. I knew about rockets and spacemen. I never really learned about Grissom, White, and Chafee until 3 years later when I started reading (and had learned to read) everything I could get my hands on about Apollo 8.

These men and others blazed the trail with their blood. It will be sad if we as a nation or race do not continue to follow the path.

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Old January 30 2009, 02:51 AM   #5
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Re: Remembering Apollo One

And I think it's safe to say that the AS-204 crew would have wanted the space program to continue, even though it meant their deaths. Gus himself said "The conquest of space is worth the risk of life."
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Old January 30 2009, 07:52 PM   #6
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Re: Remembering Apollo One

Thumbs up to that.
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Old January 30 2009, 08:38 PM   #7
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Re: Remembering Apollo One

I remember hearing about it on the news, and then reading up on it in the paper the next day. Mostly I was shocked, because NASA had a pretty impressive safety record up until that point.
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Old January 30 2009, 08:53 PM   #8
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Re: Remembering Apollo One

I've long harbored a bit of a fantasy where the Apollo 1 fire does not occur, and Gus Grissom is the first man on the moon. Not sure why, exactly, but it just seems like it would have been right.
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Old January 30 2009, 10:58 PM   #9
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Re: Remembering Apollo One

Actually, the Apollo 1 fire happening on the pad may have saved later crews from losing their lives on orbit or even further out. A "Flying Dutchman" would have been a far worse outcome for the program and the nation than 3 heroes in Arlington. The fire happening when it did uncovered many design issues that needed to be rectified for a safe(r) craft.

Of course that's probably little consolation to the families and friends of Gus, Roger, and Ed.
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Old January 31 2009, 05:26 AM   #10
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Re: Remembering Apollo One

And didn't Ed White's widow take her own life some time ago?
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Old January 31 2009, 06:35 AM   #11
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Re: Remembering Apollo One

Mysterion wrote: View Post
I've long harbored a bit of a fantasy where the Apollo 1 fire does not occur, and Gus Grissom is the first man on the moon. Not sure why, exactly, but it just seems like it would have been right.
Gus would have loved that. Damn. I missed this anniversary. Godspeed Gus, Ed, and Roger. You are missed.
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Old January 31 2009, 04:01 PM   #12
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Re: Remembering Apollo One

Salute, fellas!
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