Apollo 1

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Apollo 1 (also AS-204)
Apollo 1 fire.jpg
Remains of the Apollo 1 cabin interior, charred by a fire which killed the entire crew
Mission type Crewed spacecraft verification test
Operator NASA
Mission duration Up to 14 days (planned)
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft CSM-012
Spacecraft type Apollo Command/Service Module, Block I
Manufacturer North American Aviation
Launch mass 20,000 kilograms (45,000 lb)
Crew
Crew size 3
Members Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Command Pilot
Edward H. White, Senior Pilot
Roger Chaffee, Pilot
Start of mission
Launch date February 21, 1967 (planned)
Rocket Saturn IB AS-204
Launch site Cape Canaveral LC-34
End of mission
Destroyed January 27, 1967 23:31 (1967-01-27UTC23:32) UTC
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Perigee 300 kilometers (160 nmi) (planned)
Apogee 220 kilometers (120 nmi) (planned)
Inclination 31 degrees (planned)
Period 89.7 minutes (planned)

Apollo 1 patch.png Apollo 1 Prime Crew - GPN-2000-001159.jpg
Left to Right: White, Grissom, Chaffee


Project Apollo
Manned missions
Apollo 7 →

Apollo 1 (initially designated Apollo Saturn-204 and AS-204) was the first manned mission of the U.S. Apollo manned lunar landing program.[1] The planned low Earth orbital test of the Apollo Command/Service Module, never made its target launch date of February 21, 1967, because a cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test on January 27 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 34 killed all three crew members—Command Pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White II and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee—and destroyed the Command Module (CM).[1] The 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, and both houses of the United States Congress launched their own committee inquiries to oversee NASA's investigation. During the investigation, a NASA internal document citing problems with prime Apollo contractor North American Aviation was publicly revealed by a Senator and became known as the "Phillips Report", embarrassing NASA Administrator James E. Webb, who was unaware of the document's existence, and attracting controversy to the Apollo program. Despite congressional displeasure at NASA's openness, both congressional committees ruled that the issues raised in the report had no bearing on the accident, and allowed NASA to continue with the program.

Although the ignition source could not be conclusively identified, the astronauts' deaths were attributed to a wide range of lethal design and construction flaws in the early Apollo Command Module. Manned Apollo flights were suspended 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 (LM) 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.

Crew[edit]

Position Astronaut
Command Pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom
Senior Pilot Edward H. White II
Pilot Roger B. Chaffee
Grissom, Chaffee and White participate in Apollo 1 water egress training, June 1966

First backup crew (April – December 1966)[edit]

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

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 background[edit]

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]

Grissom, White, and Chaffee pose in front of their Apollo 1 space vehicle on the launch pad on January 17, 1967, ten days before the fatal fire

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.

Official portrait of prime and backup crews for AS-204, as of April 1, 1966. The backup crew (standing) of McDivitt (center), Scott (left) and Schweickart were replaced by Schirra, Eisele and Cunningham in December 1966

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 Russell 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.

Command Module 012, labeled Apollo One, arrives at Kennedy Space Center, August 26, 1966

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.

Chaffee, White, and Grissom training in a simulator of their Command Module cabin, January 19, 1967

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 (MEO), to be crewed by Frank Borman, Michael Collins and William Anders. McDivitt, Scott and Schweickart had started their training for AS-278 in CM-101 when the Apollo 1 accident occurred.

Mission insignia[edit]

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 North American Aviation employee Allen Stevens.[9][10]

Spacecraft problems[edit]

The Apollo 1 crew expressed their concerns about their spacecraft's problems by presenting this parody of their crew portrait 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, 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]

Accident[edit]

Plugs-out test[edit]

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 launch simulation on January 27, 1967, 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 pure oxygen at 16.7 psi (1.15 bar), 2 psi higher than atmospheric pressure.[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]

Fire[edit]

Exterior of the Command Module was blackened from eruption of the fire after the cabin wall failed

The 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), Chaffee exclaimed "Hey!", and scuffling sounds followed for two seconds. White then reported, "I've got a fire in the cockpit!". Some witnesses said that 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 is believed to have come from Chaffee. Six seconds after White's report of a "fire in the cockpit", a voice cried out, "There's a bad fire!". The sound of the spacecraft's hull rupturing was heard immediately afterwards, followed by "I'm burning up!" and a scream. The transmission then ended abruptly at 6:31:21, only 17 seconds after the first report of fire. The cabin had ruptured due to rapidly expanding gases from the fire, which over-pressurized the Command Module to 29 psi (2.0 bar).

Flames 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]

The initial phase of the fire lasted only about 15 seconds before the Command Module's hull ruptured. As the cabin depressurized, the convective rush of air caused the flames to spread rapidly, beginning the second phase. The third phase began when most of the atmosphere was consumed. At this point, the fire largely stopped, but massive amounts of smoke, dust, carbon monoxide, and fumes now filled the cabin. 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. Because of the large strands of melted nylon fusing the astronauts to the cabin interior, removing the bodies took nearly 90 minutes.[6]

Investigation[edit]

As a result of the in-flight failure of the Gemini 8 mission on March 17, 1966, NASA Deputy Administrator 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 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."[17]

Immediately after the Apollo 1 fire, Seamans directed establishment of the Apollo 204 Review Board chaired by Langley Research Center director 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 B. 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."[18]

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 one-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. The autopsy report confirmed that the primary cause of death for all three astronauts was cardiac arrest caused by high concentrations of carbon monoxide. Burns suffered by the crew were not believed to be major factors, and it was concluded that most of them had occurred postmortem. Asphyxiation happened after the fire melted the astronauts' suits and oxygen tubes, exposing them to the lethal atmosphere of the cabin.[11]

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

Ignition source[edit]

The review board determined that the electrical power momentarily failed at 23:30:55 GMT, and found evidence of several electric arcs in the interior equipment. However, they were unable to conclusively identify a single ignition source. They determined that the fire most likely started near the floor in the lower left section of the cabin, close to the Environmental Control Unit.[11] It spread from the left wall of the cabin to the right, with the floor being affected only briefly. The engulfed area on the left contained the manual depressurization valve which would have been used to vent the cabin atmosphere to the outside. Consequently, the astronauts were unable to reach it, however this was in any case insufficient to prevent heat and pressure buildup.[19]

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.[20][21]

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 cabin[edit]

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.[page needed]

Pure oxygen atmosphere[edit]

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 psi (1.15 bar), 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 psi (0.34 bar), 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.[22]

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.[23] 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 his monograph Project Apollo: The Tough Decisions, Deputy Administrator Seamans wrote that NASA's single worst mistake in engineering judgment was not to run a fire test on the Command Module prior to the plugs-out test.[24] In the first episode of the 2009 BBC documentary series NASA: Triumph and Tragedy, Jim McDivitt said that NASA had no idea how a 100% oxygen atmosphere would influence burning.[25] Similar remarks by other astronauts were expressed in the 2007 documentary film In the Shadow of the Moon.[26]

Other oxygen fires[edit]

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.[27]

Other oxygen fire occurrences are documented in certain U.S. reports archived in the National Air and Space Museum,[28] 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.[29][30][31] This revelation caused some speculation whether the Apollo 1 disaster might have been averted had NASA been aware of the incident.[32]

Hatch design[edit]

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 first,[6] 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.[19]

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 did not 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.[33]

Emergency preparedness[edit]

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.[11]

Political fallout[edit]

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 United States Congress with oversight of the space program soon launched investigations, including the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, chaired by Senator Clinton P. Anderson. Seamans, Webb, Manned Space Flight Administrator Dr. George E. 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 a 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 John L. Atwood, to which Mueller appended his own strongly worded memo to Atwood.[34] 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. 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. 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.[24]

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",[35] but stated in its recommendations:

"Notwithstanding that in NASA's judgment 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."[36]

Freshman Senators Edward W. Brooke III and Charles H. Percy jointly wrote an Additional Views section appended to the committee report, chastising NASA more strongly than Anderson for not having disclosed the Phillips review to Congress. Mondale wrote his own, even more strongly worded Additional View, accusing NASA of "evasiveness, ... lack of candor, ... patronizing attitude toward Congress, ... refusal to respond fully and forthrightly to legitimate Congressional inquiries, and ... solicitous concern for corporate sensitivities at a time of national tragedy."[37]

The potential political threat to Apollo blew over, due in large part to the support of President Lyndon B. 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.

Internal acrimony developed between NASA and North American over assignment of blame. North American argued unsuccessfully it was not responsible for the fatal error in spacecraft atmosphere design. Finally, Webb contacted Atwood, and demanded either he or Chief Engineer Harrison A. Storms resign. Atwood elected to fire Storms.[38]

On the NASA side, Joseph Shea became unfit for duty in the aftermath and was removed from his position, although not fired.[39]

Program recovery[edit]

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.[40][41]

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.[40] 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."[41] 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.[41] 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.[40]

Command Module redesign[edit]

After the fire, the Apollo program was grounded for review and redesign. 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).[19]

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 (1.01 bar). During ascent the cabin rapidly vented down to 5 psi (0.34 bar), 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.
  • 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.

New mission naming scheme[edit]

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.[42]

The manned flight hiatus allowed work to catch up on the Saturn V and 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 orbital test mission as Apollo 7 (AS-205), in a Block II CSM in October 1968.

Memorials[edit]

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 West Point Cemetery on the grounds 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.[43]

The Apollo 15 mission left on the surface of the Moon a tiny memorial statue, Fallen Astronaut, along with a plaque containing the names of the Apollo 1 astronauts, among others including Soviet cosmonauts, who perished in the pursuit of human space flight.[44]

Launch Complex 34[edit]

After 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°31′19″N 80°33′41″W / 28.52182°N 80.561258°W / 28.52182; -80.561258) 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.

In 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.

KSC Launch Complex 34.jpg Pad 34 astronaut memorial.jpg Apollo1plaque.JPG LC34plaque2.jpg LC34 memorial benches.jpg
Launch pedestal, with dedication plaque on rear of right post Memorial kiosk Dedication plaque attached to launch platform Memorial plaque attached to launch platform Granite memorial benches on the edge of the launch pad

Stars, landmarks on the Moon and Mars[edit]

  • 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. 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.[45]
  • Craters on the Moon and hills on Mars are named after the three Apollo 1 astronauts.

Civic and other memorials[edit]

Remains of CM-012[edit]

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 the investigation 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 parts of CM-012 were moved approximately 90 feet (27 m) to a newer, environmentally controlled warehouse.[62] 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.[63]

Popular culture[edit]

  • The accident is briefly depicted in the opening scene of the 1995 film Apollo 13.
  • The Apollo 1 tragedy and its aftermath is the subject of episode 2 of the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, starring Mark Rolston as Gus Grissom, Chris Isaak as Ed White and Ben Marley as Roger Chaffee.
  • The launch pedestal and memorial plaque are briefly depicted in scenes from the 1985 IMAX film Chronos and the 1998 feature film Armageddon.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Ertel, Ivan D.; Newkirk, Roland W. et al. (1969–1978). "Part 1 (H): Preparation for Flight, the Accident, and Investigation: March 16 through April 5, 1967". The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology IV. Washington, D.C.: NASA. LCCN 69-60008 Check |lccn= value (help). OCLC 23818. NASA SP-4009. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Apollo Program". National Air and Space Museum. Bellcomm, Inc Technical Library Collection. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. 2001. Subseries III.D.3. Accession No. XXXX-0093. Retrieved January 26, 2013. 
  3. ^ Benson 1978: Chapter 18-1 – The Fire That Seared The Spaceport, "Introduction"
  4. ^ "3 Crewmen Picked For 1st Apollo Flight". The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, FL). Associated Press. March 22, 1966. p. 1. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Apollo Shot May Come This Year". The Bonham Daily Favorite (Bonham, TX). United Press International. May 5, 1966. p. 1. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Orloff, Richard W. (September 2004) [First published 2000]. Apollo 1 - The Fire: 27 January 1967. "Apollo by the Numbers: A Statistical Reference". NASA History Division, Office of Policy and Plans. NASA History Series (Washington, D.C.: NASA). ISBN 0-16-050631-X. LCCN 00-061677 Check |lccn= value (help). NASA SP-2000-4029. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  7. ^ "'Open End' Orbit Planned for Apollo". The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA). United Press International. August 4, 1966. p. 20. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Apollo To Provide Live Space Shots". Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Sarasota, FL). United Press International. October 13, 1966. p. 1. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  9. ^ Dorr, Eugene. "Space Mission Patches – Apollo 1 Patch". Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  10. ^ Hengeveld, Ed (May 20, 2008). "The man behind the Moon mission patches". collectSPACE. Retrieved July 6, 2013.  "A version of this article was published concurrently in the British Interplanetary Society's Spaceflight magazine." (June 2008; pp. 220–225).
  11. ^ a b c d Seamans, Robert C., Jr. (April 5, 1967). "Findings, Determinations And Recommendations". Report of Apollo 204 Review Board. NASA History Office. Retrieved October 7, 2007. 
  12. ^ White, Mary C. "Detailed Biographies of Apollo I Crew - Gus Grissom". NASA History Program Office. NASA. Retrieved July 29, 2008. 
  13. ^ Brooks, Courtney G.; Grimwood, James M.; Swenson, Loyd S., Jr. (1979). "Preparations for the First Manned Apollo Mission". Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft. NASA History Series. Foreword by Samuel C. Phillips. Washington, D.C.: Scientific and Technical Information Branch, NASA. ISBN 0-486-46756-2. LCCN 79-1042 Check |lccn= value (help). OCLC 4664449. NASA SP-4205. Retrieved January 29, 2008. 
  14. ^ Murray & Cox 1989, p. 184
  15. ^ Murray & Cox 1989, p. 185
  16. ^ Wilford, John (1969). We Reach the Moon: The New York Times Story of Man's Greatest Adventure. New York: Bantam Books. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-448-26152-2. OCLC 47325. 
  17. ^ Seamans, Robert C., Jr. (April 5, 1967). "NASA Management Instruction 8621.1 April 14, 1966". Apollo 204 Review Board Final Report. NASA. Retrieved March 7, 2011. 
  18. ^ "James E. Webb". NASA History Office. NASA. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b c Seamans, Robert C., Jr. (April 5, 1967), "Part V: Investigation and Analyses", Apollo 204 Review Board Final Report, Washington, D.C.: NASA 
  20. ^ Ertel, Ivan D.; Newkirk, Roland W. et al. (1969–1978). "Part 2 (B): Recovery, Spacecraft Redefinition, and First Manned Apollo Flight: May 1967". The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology IV. Washington, D.C.: NASA. LCCN 69-60008 Check |lccn= value (help). OCLC 23818. NASA SP-4009. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  21. ^ 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. April 21, 1967. Retrieved May 21, 2008. )
  22. ^ Benson 1978: Chapter 18-3 – The Spacecraft Comes to KSC
  23. ^ Giblin, Kelly A. (Spring 1998). "'Fire in the Cockpit!'". American Heritage of Invention & Technology (American Heritage Publishing) 13 (4). Archived from the original on November 20, 2008. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  24. ^ a b Seamans, Robert C., Jr. (2005). Project Apollo: The Tough Decisions (PDF). Monographs in Aerospace History. No. 37. Washington, D.C.: NASA. pp. 76–77. ISBN 978-0-160-74954-4. LCCN 2005003682. NASA SP-2005-4537. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  25. ^ "One Small Step" at the Internet Movie Database
  26. ^ In the Shadow of the Moon (2007) at the Internet Movie Database
  27. ^ Smith, B. Dean (2006). The Fire That NASA Never Had. Baltimore, MD: PublishAmerica. ISBN 978-1-4241-2574-6. LCCN 2006297829. 
  28. ^ "Bellcomm, Inc Technical Library Collection". National Air and Space Museum. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. 2001. Accession No. XXXX-0093. Retrieved April 5, 2010. 
  29. ^ Siddiqi, Asif A. (2003) [Originally published 2000 as Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-74 (PDF). NASA History Division, Office of Policy and Plans. NASA History Series (Washington, D.C.: NASA). NASA SP-2000-4408]. Sputnik and the Soviet Space Challenge. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. p. 266. ISBN 0-8130-2627-X. LCCN 2002032184. 
  30. ^ Hall, Rex D.; Shayler, David J.; Vis, Bert (2005). Russia's Cosmonauts: Inside the Yuri Gagarin Training Center. Chichester, UK: Springer. pp. 75–77. ISBN 0-387-21894-7. LCCN 2005922814. 
  31. ^ Scott, David; Leonov, Alexei; Toomey, Christine (2004). Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race. Foreword by Neil Armstrong; introduction by Tom Hanks. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 978-0-312-30866-7. LCCN 2004059381. 
  32. ^ Charles, John (January 29, 2007). "Could the CIA have prevented the Apollo 1 fire?". The Space Review. Retrieved January 5, 2008. 
  33. ^ Benson 1978: Chapter 18-2 – The Fire That Seared The Spaceport, "Predictions of Trouble"
  34. ^ "The Phillips Report". NASA History Office. Retrieved April 14, 2010. 
  35. ^ Anderson 1968, p. 7
  36. ^ Anderson 1968, p. 11
  37. ^ Anderson 1968, p. 16
  38. ^ Burke, James (presenter); Low, George; Myers, Dale D.; Petrone, Rocco; Webb, James E. (July 20, 1979). "The Other Side of the Moon". Project Apollo. Episode 2. BBC. Harrison Storms interview with historian James Burke for BBC television. See Video on YouTube (at 28:11).[dead link]
  39. ^ Murray & Cox 1989, pp. 213–14
  40. ^ a b c "Full Transcript: NASA Update on the Space Shuttle Columbia Sean O'Keefe and Scott Hubbard August 26, 2003 (part 2)". SpaceRef. Reston, VA: SpaceRef Interactive Inc. August 26, 2003. Part 2 of 4. Retrieved July 13, 2013.  PDF of update available from NASA here.
  41. ^ a b c Kranz 2000, p. 204
  42. ^ "Apollo 11 30th Anniversary: Manned Apollo Missions". NASA History Office. 1999. Archived from the original on February 20, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  43. ^ Jones, Eric M., ed. (1995). "EASEP Deployment and Closeout". Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal. NASA. 
  44. ^ "images.jsc.nasa.gov". images.jsc.nasa.gov. 1971-08-01. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  45. ^ Jones, Eric M., ed. (2006). "Post-landing Activities". Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Journal. NASA. Archived from the original on August 2, 2007. Retrieved July 26, 2007.  Section 105:11:33.
  46. ^ "Virgil I. Grissom High School". Huntsville City Schools. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  47. ^ "Ed White Middle School". Huntsville City Schools. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  48. ^ "Chaffee Elementary School". Huntsville City Schools. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  49. ^ "Virgil Grissom Elementary". North Scott Community School District. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  50. ^ "Edward White Elementary School". North Scott Community School District. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  51. ^ "North Scott Community School District". North Scott Community School District. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  52. ^ "Edward H. White Middle School". North East Independent School District. Retrieved June 24, 2008. 
  53. ^ "Edward H. White High School". Duval County Public Schools. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  54. ^ "Ed H. White Elementary". Clear Creek Independent School District. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  55. ^ "Ed White Memorial Youth Center". Ed White Memorial Youth Center. Archived from the original on February 12, 2008. Retrieved July 11, 2008. 
  56. ^ "Grissom Elementary School". Tulsa Public Schools. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  57. ^ Brittingham, Hazel (March 21, 2004). "Fallen Astronauts: Book Review". arlingtoncemetery.net. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  58. ^ Map of City of Long Beach Enterprise Zones (PDF)
  59. ^ "Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium". Grand Rapids Public Museum. Archived from the original on June 17, 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2008. 
  60. ^ "Roger B. Chaffee Scholarship Fund". rogerbchaffeescholarship.org. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  61. ^ "Chaffee Park, Rosecrans Avenue, Fullerton, CA – Google Maps". Google. Retrieved August 14, 2010. 
  62. ^ Weil, Martin (February 18, 2007). "Ill-Fated Apollo 1 Capsule Moved to New Site". The Washington Post. p. C5. 
  63. ^ Tennant, Diane (February 17, 2007). "Burned Apollo I capsule moved to new storage facility in Hampton". PilotOnline.com. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]