The story of the interior of the Apollo 1 cab


The Apollo program began in the golden years of the late 1950s, when the nation disappeared from a post-war industrial boom and without major social unrest; but in the mid-1960s the political landscape changed considerably. These seemingly happy days had hidden underlying accent, which rose in the 1960s and by 1966, there were devastating riots that were rooted in poverty and inequality, and frequent protests against America's involvement in the Vietnam War escalated.

Despite the increased criticism and apathy towards it, the Apollo program continued, although the NASA budget adjusted for inflation soon began to crumble. There was still a lot – for 1966 there were 4.4 percent of the federal budget – but the congressional message seemed mixed; they basically said: Go ahead and land on the moon, but do not count on another program of the same size after that. More than anything that NASA has preserved, its commitment to a beloved leader who was less than three years old in his administration, the president, who at first was indifferent to the effort in space, which he initially accepted. for political purposes, and then with real enthusiasm. JFK's death only strengthened this promise, and NASA and others in the government would retain it despite the conquerors and scientists who said that the dangers of space flights exceed its benefits and that machines and robots can do the same things as their human colleagues and more – and for much less money.

By the end of 1966, the Go Fever was also captured by NASA and the factories of its thousands of performers. In the hurry, it was as fast as possible to achieve everything that meant that any small problems should be avoided because they could have missed deadlines. The end of the race was in sight. And although the astronaut Gus Grissom from the Mercury project was well aware of the problems with the command module, he was also involved in Go Fever. Because if the flight of Apollo 1 took place well and the next, he was sure to be the first choice to land on the moon. After all, NASA's top management, which included Slayton and Kraft, believed that, if possible, he should be an astronaut with mercury and that he was the only one who was entrusted with the task. After a successful year, Gemini 3 felt that after the poor conclusion of the Mercury mission he bought and that his attitude towards the press had improved considerably; since then, a reporter said, "journalists were a pleasure". If he and his crew were only allowed to pass these tests and NASA could make corrections on their spacecraft, everything would be fine.

The Grissom crew members for Apollo 1 were Ed Hardy, the first American space traveler and already national hero, and Roger Chaffee, a member of the 1963 Astronaut group, who was a thirty-year-old pilot in barnstorming. his goal is the first flight to the moon. Chaffee, although he did not fly in Gemini, was highly appreciated; was a former naval pilot of martial airplanes and spy planes – flew a reconnaissance mission in Cuba during a missile crisis in October 1962 – and a perfectionist as an engineer. Chaffee and Grissom were both Purdue graduates and both of them became close – Chaffee even picked up some Grissom habits, such as salting his speech with occasional shame. Gus, who soon became forty, liked the young pilot and called him "really big boy".

Grissom could not ride a boat on Apollo spacecraft from his first production stages, as he did with Gemini. Since two programs were developed at the same time, other astronauts were involved in the early collection and testing of a command module module at the North American aviation factory in Downey, California, and did not have the permission to import Grissom from Gemini. In order to make things worse, the artist did not want to share data and drawings with flight controllers and astronauts. But Grissom tried to capture him, and he was not pleased with what was happening. None of Apollo's components progressed smoothly or according to the schedule.

In fact, if it were a horse module, it would "shoot him somewhere in 1966, perhaps already in 1965," said Walt Williams, former director of mercury operations. What would be the Grissom vessel, the AS-204, was designated as such because Apollo-Saturn, the fourth booster, produced in the second Saturn series, entered space into space into space – Saturn IB – was particularly suitable for problems, from communications and drives to its environmental systems and beyond. This caused an uneven accumulation of electrical installations – it was twenty miles from it in a spacecraft – it was hardly possible to squeeze in. Apollo was, for some sizes, more complex than the Gemini, and everyone began to get to know what that meant for schedules.

Slayton awarded Grissom the first flight of Apollo shortly after Gus's mission Gemini on March 3, 1965. Gus and his crew members started weeks away from home, either at the North American aviation factory in California or Grumman on Long Island, although most of the time spent with former Jim McDivit, who was at the beginning of June without Gemini 4, was awarded LM, and Grumman was responsible for this. For a long time, they visited countless meetings, monitored design and production reviews, carried out inspections and tested the spacecraft, which mostly meant that it worked hours and hours, while reporting project and operational errors of one or more engineers or technicians . Some North American aviation engineers named Grissom as "Nitpicker" for its thoroughness. Grissom's domestic life and the life of his crew members and their backups were mainly covered only by one weekend with their families to remind the children that their fathers and their wives had men.

On the cap, the main simulator of the mission was so far behind in the inclusion of the latest developments that hung Grissom with a large lemon a few days before the test. At a December press conference, Grissom stated that a successful flight would be a day when he and his crew returned alive. The journalists laughed and thought they were joking. It was not entirely clear that, in particular, as he told Al Shepardu privately: "It's the worst spacecraft I've ever seen." He told his wife that his crew members did not spend enough time on the command module – "He thought we should work instead of playing," she recalled. However, he was careful not to overlook too much. "They'll let me go," he told his old crew member Gemini 3, John Young.

The pressure for these components to be completed and sent to Cape Kennedy was intense, and despite some poor products and incomplete inspections, it was done. Too involved, the astronauts stayed at the top. Grissom gave Slayton and Shepherd a long list of problems and assured him that they will be repaired from actual startup. But Go Fever took over and there was not enough time to do things or repair what needed to be fixed. NASA had three Apollo missions planned for 1967 and a total of fifteen Saturn V missiles on order, although it was hoped that a landing on the Moon would be reached by the ninth or tenth momentum – and before the end of the decade. Maintaining such a tight timetable was dependent on a good, solid year to find all the problems in the command module module.

Although the actual mission was set for February 21, 1967, several important tests were planned before. One of them was a shutdown test: a simulated full countdown, at the end of which the spacecraft would switch to internal energy, almost identical to the actual start-up conditions, in order to test the compatibility of all systems and to ensure that the space vehicle would operate internally. It would only include modules for command and service, without an accelerator, so it would be a safe, routine general exercise that should take about five hours. In the cabin, the environment is 100 percent oxygen, no earth's atmospheric atmosphere is 80 percent nitrogen and 20 percent oxygen, in order to avoid bends caused by nitrogen in the blood. Even the atmosphere with one gas has eliminated the need for complex water installations that were needed to maintain the appropriate mix, and the additional weight of the plumbing system. Pure oxygen, although highly flammable, has been used in Mercury and Gemini without any complications.

Wally Schirra and his spare crew were two days in the bevel command module before performing a similar subtraction test, which was connected, with an external power supply with an open cover. They were made in the atmosphere of sea level, breathing ambient air and without aliens. This test became a twenty-three-hour marathon, which ended at three in the afternoon. He later told Schirr Griss that he had a bad feeling about the spacecraft. "You'll be there tomorrow with full oxygen," he said, "and if you have the same feeling as I, I suggest you go out."

About noon on the cold Friday, January 27, on the launch board at Kennedy 34, Grissom, White and Chaffee, in their white suits for aircraft, they lifted the elevator two hundred meters to the eighth level and walked over twenty meters of runways. v White Room, a protective enclosure surrounding the command module during installation and takeover. With them, Deke Slayton – during the test, thought he would lie at his feet in the cabin to try to figure out some communication problems that were related to the command module, but Grissom was unaware. By one hour in the morning. they were tied to their couches, known for hours that were tested in vacuum chambers in Houston, and Slayton went to the house where he accompanied the test. The service management module was at the top of an unused Saturn IB accelerator.

The technicians closed the inlet flaps from three parts – first the inner flap, then the outer flap and the final cap. The original design required a one-piece flap that would be triggered by explosive screws, but when Grissom almost drowned after drowning in Liberty Bell 7, the replacement of the design was changed to one that would never have been accidentally opened. He did not like any of the astronauts because he excluded EVA from the command module. A simpler, articulated flap was made, though it would not be available in the Grissom version of Block I. You needed the key to loosen the six screws on the inner flap (in the simulations of this one could not do it in less than ninety seconds) could open if it was not the same pressure inside and outside. In the cabin, the pressure was at 16.7 pounds per square inch, slightly higher than the atmospheric pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch.

The crew sat three in the second position, their shoulders almost touched: Griss on the left in the commander's seat, the senior White pilot in the middle and the Chaffee pilot on the right. Behind them and before them were a number of meters, switches, dials, lights and switches.

Members of the crew were on the Cape all week, but spent the previous Sunday night with their families. Grissom and his wife discussed the great party that was scheduled for all astronauts and their wives for the day after the launch, on Saturday, in Houston. One of the last things she did was to pick up a lemon for the simulator from her tree in her yard. The crew hoped to complete this plug-in test-and leave the practice on which Grissom insisted-at the right time to take their T-38 back to Houston, sleep well in their homes and try. to let some couple at the party. But the command module did not cooperate. The astronauts slowly beat through the checklist before the flight and waited through several containers, while the ground crew attempted to repair the radio error; permanent static communication disorder during mission control and spacecraft. When Grissom repeated several times to understand it, his frustration took over: "I said, Jesus Christ, if we can not communicate in three miles, how will we communicate when we are on the moon?" "

It's been a day. At 4:00 pm there was one change of technicians, and the other one came. At 5:40 pm, at sunset, another way was called in T minus ten minutes to solve another communication problem before the simulated lift when the plugs were pulled out. Everyone hoped this would be the last delay. After that, they could continue with the last ten minutes, complete, get through the extraordinary exit practice – the three astronauts would lift a high-speed elevator to a fire truck waiting at the bottom of the pad – and retreated from there. Someone suggested that the test be postponed, but it was rejected. Repeat the test would cost more time, but time was something they did not have.

A few seconds before 6:31 am, when the crew members once again flown their checklist, there was a slight increase in voltage.

Nine seconds later one of the crew shouted: "Hey!"

A moment passed, then a voice rang – maybe White's -: "We have a fire in the cockpit!"

It was followed by seven seconds of silence. Then the transfer is transmitted, preferably from Chaffee: "We have a bad fire – we go out. . . burning. "

It was the final melting of pain and nothing more.

Seventy-seven men from the rescue team fell across the catwalk. Fourteen seconds after the first alarm, the command module hull torn, flame and gases. The impact wave crashed them and some of them ran along the runway to the elevator, believing that the command module exploded or was being prepared. Several fired extinguishers escaped to the White Room and tried to open the module cover, but the heat and the smoke drove many of them back. A few moments later they returned, some of them had gas masks. While the head of the pillow called the firefighters and ambulances, five men exchanged a flap removal tool, worked in a dense, dark smoke, and often traveled to the White Room and breathing out of it. About five minutes after the first fire report, they finally opened all three throats, but until then it was too late. The fire lasted only twenty-five seconds, but the three astronauts were gone, suffocated by toxic gases in the cabin. Inside there was no fire extinguisher.

Deke Slayton, the best friend of Grissom, sat next to the new astronaut Stu Roos, CapComa, and talked with Rocco Petrone, the stupid director of launch operations at Cape Kennedy. Slayton jumped from his seat when he heard the first cry. He and everyone else turned to video monitors and watched helplessly how the flames in the spacecraft were built to white glare and then calmed down. Slayton thought he saw the movement in the cabin. A few seconds later, they heard somebody on the launch pad screaming for a doctor. Slayton and two doctors rushed to the fall, lifted the elevator to the eighth stage and rushed to the White Room, where the hatch was already open. When he looked at Slayton, he saw a blanket of black ash covering everything. "Looks like the interior of the stove," he said; Washington Post used these words as a title a few days later.

Later it would be found out that the sparkle below and to the left of Grissom's couch – probably short in the strand of wires somewhere in the many kilometers of the module in command module – achieved some flammable and ignited a fire that raged. through the cab, burning everything and everything on its way: straps and straps, nylon nets, space suits, helmets, oxygen tubes, aluminum cooling tubes and a number of caps and patches, scattered everywhere. Pure oxygen was almost immediately replaced by carbon monoxide and toxic black smoke that broke into the oxygen lines of the crew. The official cause of death is suffocation, although men have also suffered serious, but not life-threatening burns. Later it was estimated that the internal temperature reached at least 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit – a melting point of stainless steel that was melted therein.

In the last seconds, before he died, Grissom moved from his seat, most likely to help Bella open the bolts. Heat and molten material were welded into different parts of the cabin and, for Grissom and White, one after the other. When Slayton looked at the black shell, he could not tell which head belongs to the body. When all doctors, firefighters and other emergency personnel arrived, the scene was largely photographed, inside and outside, to help with the upcoming investigation. Around 12:30 they began to remove corpses; To complete the work would take 90 minutes. 27 technicians who were treated for smoke inhalation were taken to the hospital.

A little later, after the rocket was fired, Slayton went to the office. When the tragedy unfolded in NASA's ranks, Deke and Chuck Friedlander, community head of the astronaut support office at Cape Kennedy, called for hours to call everyone who needed to know. Deke alerted the astronaut to the Houston area and gave them a difficult task: to go to the home of Grissom, White and Chaffee as soon as possible to tell their families what happened before they heard it on the news or received calls from researchers. Michael Collins had the task of bringing it to the Nassau bay and telling Martha Chaffee. A few astronauts came to her house first but did not tell her; when she saw Collins, she knew.


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