Apollo 1 – A tragic start to the most epic of adventures

NASA is an organisation renowned for it’s incredible attention to detail. After all, the Saturn V rocket that carried humans to the moon contained over 1 million parts, all of which had to work together simultaneously for a successful mission.

That said, things do go wrong, from the most minor of technical malfunctions to the ultimate error of lives been lost. As much as possible, these scenarios are all planned for, with the risks accepted by those involved as a simple fact of astronaut life and space exploration in general.

However, even the most advanced planners and mission specialists did not foresee that three astronauts would die not even on the very first Apollo mission, without even lifting off the pad, but in a final testing sequence days in advance of their launch into space.

Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died when an electrical fire started in their command module and the design of the only exit door on board prevented them from escaping in time.

It was a most gruesome and horrific way for these three accomplished men to die, an unspeakable loss for their families and a tremendous shock for all their support teams on the ground.

The whole Apollo Moon program was put back by 18 months as a result, however the program carried on and ultimately achieved it’s objective of landing men on the moon before the end of the decade. Gus, Ed and Roger knew the risks they were taking, yet it seems particularly sad that they died without having the opportunity at least to travel into space atop the mighty Saturn rocket in what would have been the pinnacle of their careers.

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The Apollo 1 Crew

(L-R) Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee