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Fifty years ago today: the Apollo 1 launchpad fire

Link here.

Fifty years ago Friday, the first – but sadly not the last – fatal spaceflight accident struck NASA when a fire claimed the lives of Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White during a training exercise at Launch Complex 34. The accident, a major setback for the struggling Apollo program, ushered in the first understanding of the “bad day” effects of schedule pressure for spaceflight and brought with it words and reminders that still echo today.

The article provides a very detailed and accurate look at the history and causes of the accident, as well as its consequences, which even today influence American space engineering.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Wayne

    I’ll take this sad opportunity to mention– we have a very nice Planetarium dedicated to Chaffee, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    – professionally done intro history reel (great video)

    Chaffee Planetarium Installation

  • Garry

    The understanding of fire that was gained from the accident has had benefits well beyond the field of space travel.

    I wish I could find the old Life magazine article that fascinated me when I was a kid in the 70’s and made me a fan of the space program. The article was on the benefits of the space program, and one of their focuses was this accident.

    According to the article, in response to this accident NASA undertook what was the most thorough investigation of fire ever, which led to development of safe wiring used in many fields, paints that didn’t give off toxic fumes when burned, and many, many other products that have saved countless lives.

    As devastating as the accident was, we didn’t let it stop us, and in fact used it to learn very valuable lessons that brought great benefit to mankind. I hope we still have this spirit.

  • wayne

    Good stuff. (it’s really been 50 years… feel “old” today.)

    Google-books appears to have Life Magazine archived on-line, although it’s not quite the same as having them in hand.
    -Last I knew ( jeez, 2-decades ago)— you could get (random dates) them for $5-10 a copy. “historic” issues priced accordingly higher.

  • Edward

    Garry wrote: “As devastating as the accident was, we didn’t let it stop us, and in fact used it to learn very valuable lessons that brought great benefit to mankind. I hope we still have this spirit.

    I am reminded of Bill Whittle’s acknowledgement of The Deal that we have with reality: (7 minutes)

    (Tomorrow is another sad anniversary.)

  • Garry

    Thanks, Edward; great video!

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