16.2.4 Apollo 1 (AS-204)

Figure 16.2.4-1. Left to right: Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

Crew: Virgil Grissom (CDR), Edward White (Senior Pilot), Roger Chaffee (Pilot).

Launch vehicle: Saturn IB.

LM: none.

Lunar orbit: none planned.

CM and LM call signs: not assigned (CM present, LM not present).

Launch and return dates: January 27, 1967.

Lunar landing date and time: none.

Lunar landing site: none.

Number of moonwalks: none planned.

Mission duration: not applicable.

Time spent on the Moon: none planned.

Number of photographs taken: none.

Quantity of Moon rocks: none planned.

Rover: none.

Notes: The Apollo 1 flight, the first crewed mission of the Apollo program, was scheduled for liftoff on February 21, 1967, but the prime crew, consisting of Grissom, White and Chaffee, died in a fire inside the command module during a rehearsal of the countdown procedures on January 27, 1967.

The specific source of the fire was never pinpointed, but many materials used on board were flammable in the pure oxygen atmosphere at high pressure (1.13 atm, 16 psi) used for the test and combustion was initiated by an electrical short-circuit. Just seventeen seconds elapsed between the crew’s first report of flames and the final radio transmission from the spacecraft. The internal overpressure made it impossible to open the hatch and attempt any rescue until the pressure buildup ruptured the vehicle, far too late to save the crew.

This disaster delayed the crewed part of the Apollo project by 20 months. The Saturn IB launcher assigned to the Apollo 1 mission was later used for the first test flight of the lunar module (Apollo 5). The name Apollo 1 was reserved by NASA and removed from the progressive numbering of the missions in honor of the three dead astronauts.