Picture of Apollo 1 spacecraft
The Apollo space program, scheduled for its first launch on Feb. 21, 1967, started in tragedy. On Jan. 27, 1967, astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were executing a dress rehearsal when fire was smelled in the command module.
Caused by a spark due to faulty electrical wiring, the fire spread quickly within the capsule. It then burned the walls of the command module, releasing toxic fumes. Meanwhile, technicians outside needed more than five minutes to open the elaborate escape hatch, only to find that the astronauts trapped inside had already died because they couldn't breathe.
The investigation which followed showed that poor planning and design were to blame for the Apollo 1 disaster. Further Apollo missions had to be postponed for over a year, as these problems were resolved and safety improvements, such as a rapid releasing escape hatch, were made.
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