Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterApollo 1 is the name given, after the fact, assigned to the never-flown Apollo/Saturn 204 (AS-204) mission. The command module, CM-012, was destroyed by fire during a test and training exercise on January 27, 1967 at Pad 34, launch complex 34 at Cape Canaveral then known as Cape Kennedy. It was sitting on a Saturn 1B rocket. The crew aboard were the astronauts selected for the first manned Apollo program mission. Command Pilot Virgil “ Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger Chaffee. All three died in the ensuing fire.
Although the ignition source of the fire on Apollo 1 was never conclusively identified, the astronauts’ deaths were attributed to a wide range of lethal design hazards in the early command module. Among these were the use of a high-pressure, 100% oxygen atmosphere for the test, wiring and plumbing flaws, flammable materials in the cockpit, an inward-opening hatch that would not open in this kind of an emergency, and the flight suits worn by the astronauts.
Apollo 1 was to be the first manned flight of a command and service module (CSM) to Earth orbit, launched on a Saturn 1B. CM-012, the command module, was a Block I design built for spaceflight but never intended for a trip to the moon since it lacked the needed docking equipment. The AS-204 mission was scheduled for the first quarter of 1967, having already missed a target date for the last quarter of 1966. The flight was to test “launch operations, ground tracking and control facilities and the performance of the Apollo-Saturn launch assembly” and would have lasted up to two weeks, depending on how the spacecraft performed. Grissom resolved to keep AS-204 in orbit for a full 14 days if there was any way to do so.
After the fire onboard Apollo 1 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. Much more thorough protocols were implemented for documenting spacecraft construction and maintenance. By all accounts the design changes were successful and worth the subsequent delay of almost 21 months before the project’s successful first launch and completion of a manned mission, Apollo 7.
There is a great article about the Apollo 1 mission here. Here on Universe Today we have a nice article on the first man on the moon. Astronomy Cast offers a good episode about some of the early space capsules.
NASA Apollo 1