In Remembrance...

-

Roger B. Chaffee


February 15, 1935 - January 27, 1967

Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy
Born February 15, 1935, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering,
Purdue University

About the Man:

Roger Bruce Chaffee was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on February 15, 1935. In 1957, he received his Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering. Also in 1957, he became a pilot after training in Florida and Texas. He then went on active duty with the United States Navy. In March of 1960, Chaffee worked with the Heavy Photographic Squadron 62, at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. He flew many photo-reconnaissance missions over Cuba during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

In January of 1963, he entered the Air Force Institute of Technology to work on a master's degree in engineering. Then, in October of that year, NASA selected Roger Chaffee as one of the fourteen men in the third group of astronaut candidates.

Chaffee worked on deep space communications and on the development of the Apollo spacecraft. NASA assigned him to the crew of Apollo One, in March of 1966. It was to have been his first space flight.

Tragically, Roger Chaffee never got to fo into space. He died on January 27, 1967, at NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, in the Apollo One spacecraft fire.

"You'll be flying along some nights with a full moon. You're up at 45,000 feet. Up there you can see it like you can't see it down here. It's just the big, bright, clear moon. You look up there and just say to yourself: I've got to get up there. I've just got to get one of those flights."

-Roger Chaffee

In Memory of Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee

Apollo 1

In 1966, NASA named Ed Higgins White II as senior pilot for the first manned Apollo mission, scheduled for February 14, 1967.

One objective of the first voyage of Project Apollo was to test the safety and reliability of various spacecraft systems in preparation for a moon landing.

Before the Apollo manned lunar missions, NASA sent unmanned space probes to the moon to collect data for studying the lunar surface. Between March 1964 and July 1965, the lunar probes took thousands of photographs of the moon's surface. Then on June 2, 1966, Surveyor 1 set down on the lunar surface. The lunar probe received thousands of commands from NASA, during its time on the lunar surface. The last contact with the lunar probe came on January 6, 1967. One month later, tragedy would delay the Apollo Program indefinitely.

Apollo One, the first manned mission in the Apollo Program was undergoing routine tests on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, on January 27, 1967. Suddenly, and without warning, a fire broke out inside the spacecraft, and almost instantly, Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee, the crew of Apollo One, perished.

After the fire, and the tragic deaths of the three astronauts on board, NASA delayed the Apollo program to take time to add safety features and to take precautions to prevent accidents like that from occurring on similar spacecraft. The fire aboard Apollo One started when sparks flew from electric wiring in the spacecraft's systems.

NASA took measures to reduce the danger of fire that included the use of noncombustible materials, wherever possible. Scientists modified the circuitry within the Apollo spacecraft, and placed metal troughs over all exposed areas, to avert damage to connected wiring.

Scientists also redesigned the hatch of the spacecraft, enabling it to be unlocked from the inside within five seconds. This would allow the crew to be able to escape within half a minute.

Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee gave their lives to make possible one of the 20th century's most spectacular scientific and technological feat; sending a man to the moon and returning him safely to the Earth in July of 1969.

Click on the Apollo One patch to read the biographies of the Apollo One Crew.


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