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Apollo 1 — Why Now?
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Apollo 1

 Apollo One Patch

January 27, 1967

Virgil “Gus” Ivan Grissom, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Edward Higgins White, II, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Roger Bruce Chaffee, Lieutenant Commander, USN


1 Kryten42 { 01.27.08 at 4:40 am }

A tragedy. Not many people speak about that tragedy where those three very brave men lost their lives. Sadly, it might (though nobody is certain) have been averted if the NASA bureaucracy hadn’t overruled the concerned scientists, engineers and the crew themselves about the many safety flaws in the design of the command module.

I came across a report by MIT Scientists that highlighted many problems. It was over 20 years ago when I visited MIT… but I remember there were over 1,000 wiring faults, and DuPont & Velcro had lobbied hard to get a big slice of the pie, and the suits were made of Nylon and Velcro was heavily used in the cockpit. Both were known to be flammable in the 100% over-pressurized oxygen atmosphere. Not all that report had been made public. I don’t know if it was ever fully released. I wish I’d made a copy now.

The crew had serious issues about fire hazards before that day which had not been resolved.

And NASA obviously still hasn’t learned it’s lesson. Sad.


2 distributorcap { 01.27.08 at 6:03 am }

i remember watching that news report on television — 41 years ago…..

whoa boy

nasa still hasnt learned its lessons

3 LadyMin { 01.27.08 at 11:28 am }

This still brings tears to my eyes.

I can remember following the space program intensely when I was a child. I really believed that by the turn of the century we would be exploring space on a routine basis… maybe have a moon colony. When Challenger blew up, I knew it was over. I would never see routine space travel in my lifetime.

And NASA still doesn’t believe they were negligent. There was an article today on space.com discussing these tragedies… and they quote NASA as saying:

The problem with all three of these accidents is they really didn’t know they had a problem,” Launius said in a phone interview.”

Yes they did know! They were warned.

4 Bryan { 01.27.08 at 1:16 pm }

Most pressurized military transports carry a liquid oxygen tank and everyone is briefed on the dangers of using it, including shutting down equipment in the event that it is necessary to switch to oxygen.

Everything gets shut down for aerial refueling because if there’s a problem you could get jet fuel and oxygen mixing in the cabin and a fire/explosion is almost guaranteed. They even talked about the problem of using an oxygen mask with oily skin in crew training.

Those guys were pilots and they knew it was dangerous, so there is no way the engineers didn’t.

5 Michael { 01.27.08 at 5:50 pm }

God be good to them. Thanks for reminding us of the anniversary, Bryan.

6 Bryan { 01.27.08 at 7:21 pm }

This is the time of the year – the Challenger is tomorrow.

7 Kryten42 { 01.27.08 at 7:58 pm }

I came across this Wiki entry about the Apollo 1 disaster. Made me angry reading it. NASA have no grounds whatsoever to claim they didn’t know.

At best, it was negligent homicide.

Apollo 1 From Wikipedia

To their dismay, the review board found the documentation for CM-012 so lacking, sometimes they were unable to determine what had been installed in the spacecraft or what was in it at the time of the accident.

The panel cited how the NASA crew systems department had installed 34 square feet of fuzzy velcro throughout the spacecraft, almost like carpeting. This velcro was found to be explosive in a high-pressure 100% oxygen environment. Up to 70 pounds of other non-metallic flammable materials had crept into the design.

After the fire the Apollo project was grounded. In hindsight the command module was understood to be extremely hazardous and in some instances, carelessly assembled. Many design changes were made, among them:

* At launch the cabin atmosphere would be at sea-level pressure and consist of 60% oxygen and 40% nitrogen, lowering to 5 psi during ascent and gradually changing over to 100% oxygen at about 2 psi during the first 24 hours of the trans-lunar coast.
* The hatch would open outward (which had already been planned) and be openable in less than ten seconds.
* Flammable materials in the cabin were replaced with self-extinguishing versions.
* Plumbing and wiring were covered with protective insulation.
* 1,407 wiring problems were corrected.
* Nylon suits (seen in the crew portrait above) were replaced with suits made of Beta cloth, a non-flammable, melt-resistant glass coated fabric.

8 Bryan { 01.27.08 at 10:01 pm }

Everything was done in a rush to be first and no one had overall control of the project. It was a mess. For years after they converted to nomex for flight suits, the Air Force issued nylon flying jackets. It was a joke.

9 hipparchia { 01.28.08 at 12:51 am }

For years after they converted to nomex for flight suits, the Air Force issued nylon flying jackets. It was a joke.

that pretty much explains how people can be told about dangers and design flaws and still this would be perfectly true:

The problem with all three of these accidents is they really didn’t know they had a problem,” Launius said in a phone interview.”

10 Kryten42 { 01.28.08 at 3:41 am }

You are probably right Bryan. I was chatting with LadyMin last night about this, and I said something along those lines.

It was political. They would do anything and take any chances (with *OTHER* people’s lives – sound familiar today?)

“Those damned commie bastards ain’t gonna beat us!”

“We beat you! We beat you! nya, nya NYA!”

I have more respect for school kids than any politicians.

I have a solution. Anyone who *REALLY* wants to be a Politician, gets a bullet in the head! They are a proven menace to society (That goes for ALL politicians everywhere BTW). 😉

“So… You REALLY want to be a Politician?”
“Ohh yes…”

Ehhhh… so shoot me! I spent a year in the Cambodian hell the Politicians were responsible for. I have no love for any of them.

11 Bryan { 01.28.08 at 3:14 pm }

Some of it is macho BS, too many people reading “The Right Stuff” instead of the engineering studies.

Interesting you should say that, Kryten, because in Terry Pratchett’s version of Australia [ The Last Continent ] they always put the prime minister in prison as soon as he’s elected, figuring it speeds up the process.

12 Kryten42 { 01.29.08 at 2:37 am }

Oh yes! LOL I remember that! 😀

That was when Rincewind (with the magic luggage) was trying to escape from gaol there. 😀

I was PMSL at the Drop Bears (Koala’s)…

Been awhile since I read that. Pratchett helped save my sanity really. 🙂

13 Bryan { 01.29.08 at 10:39 am }

It’s interesting how many of the people who stop by here read Pratchett. There’s a lot of truth in fantasy, especially with the current administration in the US.

14 Kryten42 { 01.30.08 at 6:35 am }

I am a big Pratchett fan. 🙂 I have every book he’s written (and both the old Discworld PC games). 🙂 I saw an interview with him some years ago, and he made a lot of sense. And you can see the parallels to the *real* World in the Discworld books. 🙂 If you are observant (or intelligent) enough to to decipher his books, you can see what particular piece of real World stupidity has set him off. LOL

Good to see his books finally being made into movies. He was VERY fussy I believe. 🙂 I did enjoy The Hogfather. The Color of Magic is next. 🙂

We all need some escape from reality now and then… or we end up like *them* (or insane).

I suppose that understanding Pratchett and his books is a kind of secret handshake. 😉 None of the far-rightwing idiots would be capable of understanding the underlying metaphors and subtleties, or simply enjoy the fantasy! LOL 😉