Friday, January 27, 2017

50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 disaster

This vintage postcard shows President Nixon greeting Apollo 11 astronauts (from left) Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin as they remain in their Mobile Quarantine Facility aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, following their return from their successful mission to the moon in July 1969.

This happy postcard almost never was.

Just 30 months earlier, the situation was much more grim for NASA and America's dream of landing a man on the moon.

On January 27, 1967 — 50 years ago today — Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, the astronauts who comprised the three-man crew of Apollo 1, were killed in a cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy.

But the tragedy and its subsequent investigation spurred significant changes to the capsule design and safety features. NASA returned to space 21 months later. In a story about the Apollo 1 anniversary on NPR, Apollo 11 astronaut Collins, now 86, says that if the fatal launch-pad fire in 1967 hadn't happened, it's likely that a similar accident would have occurred in space. Such a higher-profile disaster might have spelled the end for NASA and the race to the moon.

"Without it, very likely, we would have not landed on the moon as the president had wished by the end of the decade," Collins said in the NPR report.

Read more about today's 50th anniversary of the tragedy at and in Sarah Larimer's piece in The Washington Post.

If you've never watched the 12-episode HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon," about America's quest to reach the moon, I give it the highest recommendation. The second episode is entirely about Apollo 1 and its aftermath.

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From the back of today's postcard...

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