Artifacts on display 50 years after Apollo 1 fire

Apollo 1 exhibit
Kennedy Space Center’s “Ad Astra Per Aspera” exhibit honors Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, who died in a launch pad fire in 1967. (NASA Photo / Kim Shiflett)

Fifty years ago today, three NASA astronauts died in a launch pad fire when they couldn’t open the hatch of their Apollo command module to escape. Remains of that module have been held in storage for decades, but never put on display. Until now.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 tragedy, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opened an exhibit titled “Ad Astra Per Aspera: A Rough Road Leads to the Stars,” featuring the scorched hatch and other artifacts from the mission that never lifted off.

“I think it’s about time that we paid tribute to the crew with a memorial here at the Kennedy Space Center,” center director Bob Cabana, a former shuttle astronaut, said today during the exhibit’s opening ceremonies.

Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee were killed during the pre-launch test on Jan. 27, 1967, after a spark from an electrical short ignited flammable materials inside the capsule where they were sitting.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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