Jan. 27 marks 50th anniversary of Apollo 1 Fire

Tom Hinde

50 years ago, on January 27, 1967, NASA suffered its first major, deadly disaster. At 2:00 p.m. CST a flash fire erupted inside the Apollo 1 command module during a preflight rehearsal test. Three astronauts were trapped inside and died.

The three crew members were Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Grissom was one of the original Mercury astronauts and the second American to fly in space. White was the first American to perform a spacewalk. Their crewmate Chaffee gained fame as a naval aviator who flew 82 missions over Cuba from April 1960 through October 1962 including the period known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

These heroes didn't die in vain. NASA had been under pressure to lead the space race. The tragic fire was a wake-up call to change spaceship safety and design. Grissom and Chaffee were buried at Arlington National Cemetery. White was buried at the West Point Cemetery.