January 27, 1967: NASA Loses the 3 Astronauts of Apollo 1

News footage from one of the early tragedies of the U.S. space program
More

On January 27, 1967, the three astronauts who had been selected for the first of NASA's Apollo missions entered a grounded space capsule in Cape Canaveral, Florida. They were preparing for a flight on February 21, which would send the capsule—the Apollo Command/Service Module—into low-Earth orbit. The trio was doing, that day, just one more simulation: They wanted to make sure that they had their checklist down cold so that, when they took their flight out of Earth, nothing would be left to chance. 

They would never make that flight. Instead, the astronauts of Apollo 1 ended up perishing inside their service module—the victims of a fire that spontaneously broke out and, it seems, of the carbon monoxide gas that came with it. Command pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, senior pilot Edward H. White II, and the rookie Roger B. Chaffee were some of the earliest human casualties of the U.S. space program; they would not, of course, be the last. 

The video above offers a reminder of the Apollo 1 tragedy as it would have been experienced by many of its time: as a newscast. One with an orchestral soundtrack, still images of the astronauts, and a narrator who noted that "their memory will forever be honored." 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Wild Vacation in the Pacific Northwest

A not-so-ordinary road trip, featuring extra-tall art bikes, skateboards, and hand-painted vans


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In