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.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, classroom activities in The Earth Scientist
specimens, and educational games
You might also be interested in:
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was one of the most important exploration tools of the past two decades, and will continue to serve as a great resource well into the new millennium. The HST found numerous...more
Driven by a recent surge in space research, the Apollo program hoped to add to the accomplishments of the Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor missions of the late 1960's. Apollo 11 was the name of the first mission...more
Apollo 12 was launched on Nov. 14, 1969, surviving a lightning strike which temporarily shut down many systems, and arrived at the Moon three days later. Astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean descended...more
Apollo 15 marked the start of a new series of missions from the Apollo space program, each capable of exploring more lunar terrain than ever before. Launched on July 26, 1971, Apollo 15 reached the Moon...more
NASA chose Deep Impact to be part of a special series called the Discovery Program on July 7, 1999. The Discovery program specializes in low-cost, scientific projects. In May 2001, Deep Impact was given...more
The Galileo spacecraft was launched on October 19, 1989. Galileo had two parts: an orbiter and a descent probe that parachuted into Jupiter's atmosphere. Galileo's main mission was to explore Jupiter and...more
During 1966 through 1967, five Lunar Orbiter spacecrafts were launched, with the purpose of mapping the Moon's surface in preparation for the Apollo and Surveyor landings. All five missions were successful....more