“ We’ve got a fire in the cockpit!” That was the cry heard over the radio on January 27, 1967, after astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee climbed into a new spacecraft perched atop a large Saturn rocket at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a routine dress rehearsal of their upcoming launch into orbit, then less than a month away.
All three astronauts were experienced pilots and had dreams of walking on the moon one day. Little did they or anyone else know, once they entered the spacecraft that cold winter day, they would never leave it alive. The Apollo program would come perilously close to failure before it ever got off the ground.
But rather than dooming the space program, this tragedy led to the complete overhaul of the spacecraft, creating a stellar flying machine capable of achieving the program’s primary goal: putting a man on the moon. Today’s guest is Ryan Walters, author of “Apollo 1: The Tragedy That Put Us on the Moon. We discuss:
•How the flawed design of the Apollo 1 spacecraft—miles of uninsulated wiring, an excess of flammable material in a pure oxygen atmosphere, and an unwieldy, three-piece hatch—doomed it from the start
•• How NASA awarded the multi-billion-dollar contract to build the Apollo 1 craft to a bidder with an inferior plan and management due to political pressure
•• How NASA’s damaged reputation and growing opposition to spending on space exploration almost led Congress to shut down the space program after the Apollo 1 fire
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