The chances of anything coming from earth, are a million to one, they say.

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We all know the story “War of the Worlds” be it either the book, movies or the musical version. A tag line of the story is “The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, they say.”

Turns out that we beat the Martians to it. On July 1976. only 7 years after the first man to set foot on the Moon, the first man made object landed on Mars, the Viking 1″

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Viking 1’s  successful landing ,gave  a window into the climatic conditions of the red planet. From the crafts position  on Chryse Planitia, the Viking 1 spent six years transmitting pictures, information and occasionally life experiments back to Earth. Which are still being debated today.

The lander was launched using a Titan/Centaur launch vehicle. The launch happened on August 20 1975, 11 months before the landing.

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Viking 1 carried a biology experiment whose purpose was to look for evidence of life. Thus far no life has been found(or has there?)

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The last man on the Moon

 

lastmenonmoonMention Neil Armstrong and every one will know who he is and even what he said when he set foot as the first man on the Moon.

However the name Eugene Cernan will mean very little to most people. Although he was just as important to the Apollo missions. Eugene Ceman was the last man on the Moon, but he was also part of the Apollo 10 mission.

Apollo 10 was  the second manned mission(Apollo 8,had been the first) to orbit the Moon. Launched on May 18, 1969, it was the F mission: (the ‘dress rehearsal’ for the first Moon landing) testing all of the components and procedures, without actually landing on the surface.

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It was also the mission which set the  highest speed attained by a manned vehicle.24,791 mph on its return to earth on May 26 1969.

Eugene Cernan Cernan flew two other space missions: Gemini 9A, where he struggled during NASA’s second spacewalk ever. Cernan was originally selected with Thomas Stafford as backup pilot for Gemini 9. When the prime crew was killed in the crash of NASA T-38A “901” (USAF serial 63-8181) at Lambert Field on February 28, 1966, the backup crew became the prime crew—the first time this happened.

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Cernan was surprised, as were others, that he was selected as the commander for the Apollo 17 mission. Shortly before the selection of the crew, Cernan had crashed his helicopter. After the crash he said  “if he couldn’t fly a helicopter without incident, how could he command a journey to the moon?”  Richard F. Gordon Jr. would have been a more likely candidate as commander for the mission, partially because he had been a member as the back up crew of the cancelled Apollo 15 mission together with Harrison H. Schmitt.

Schmitt was a geologist, making him the first scientist-astronaut to land on moon.He was assigned as Lunar Module Pilot for the Apollo 17 mission.

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Scientific objectives of the Apollo 17 mission included, geological surveying and sampling of materials and surface features in a pre-selected area of the Taurus-Littrow region; deploying and activating surface experiments.

Cernan’s role as commander of Apollo 17 closed out the Apollo program’s lunar exploration mission with a number of record-setting achievements. During the three days of Apollo 17’s surface activity (Dec. 11-14, 1972), Cernan and Schmitt performed three EVAs (Extravehicular Activities)or Spacewalk and moonwalk in this case, of  a total of about 22 hours of exploration of the Taurus–Littrow valley. Their first EVA alone was more than three times the length astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent outside the Lunar Module.

As Cernan was getting ready  to climb the ladder for the final time, he spoke these words; which are the last spoken by a human standing on the Moon’s surface to date:

“Bob, this is Gene, and I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record: that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

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Sadly Eugene Cernan died on January 16, 2017 but what a legacy he left behind, they just don’t make them like that anymore. A true hero.

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Sources

NASA

Space.com

First human in Space

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Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarinwas a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He was the first human to journey into outer space when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961.

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During the flight, the 27-year-old test pilot and industrial technician also became the first man to orbit the planet, a feat accomplished by his space capsule in 89 minutes. Vostok 1 orbited Earth at a maximum altitude of 187 miles and was guided entirely by an automatic control system. The only statement attributed to Gagarin during his one hour and 48 minutes in space was, “Flight is proceeding normally; I am well.”

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Sources

ESA

Armaghplanet

Mercury 7-Astronaut Group 1

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On April 9, 1959, NASA’s first administrator, Dr. Keith Glennan, announced the names of the agency’s first group of astronauts at a news conference in Washington, D.C. Now known as the “Original Seven,” they included three Naval aviators, M. Scott Carpenter, Walter M. Schirra Jr., and Alan B. Shepard Jr.; three Air Force pilots, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom, and Donald K. (Deke) Slayton; along with Marine Corps aviator John H. Glenn Jr. This group photo of the original Mercury astronauts was taken in June 1963 at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), now Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas. The astronauts are, left-to-right: Cooper, Schirra, Shepard, Grissom, Glenn, Slayton and Carpenter.

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Mercury represented NASA’s first human spaceflight program, with the aim to see if humans could function effectively in space for a few minutes or hours at a time.

Members of the group flew on all classes of NASA manned orbital spacecraft of the 20th century — Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle. Gus Grissom died in 1967, in the Apollo 1 fire.

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The others all survived past retirement from service. John Glenn went on to become a U.S. senator and flew on the Shuttle 36 years later to become the oldest person to fly in space, age 77. He was the last living member of the Mercury 7 team when he died in 2016 at the age of 95.

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On Oct. 7, 1958, the space agency announced plans to launch humans into space. Project Mercury became NASA’s first major undertaking. The objectives of the program were simple by today’s standards, but required a major undertaking to place a human-rated spacecraft into orbit around Earth, observe the astronaut’s performance in such conditions and safely recover the astronaut and the spacecraft.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s decision that the military services could provide the pilots simplified the astronaut selection process. From a total of 508 service records screened in January 1959, 110 men were found to meet the minimum standards. This list of names included five Marines, 47 Naval aviators and 58 Air Force pilots.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower insisted that all candidates be test pilots. Because of the small space inside the Mercury spacecraft, candidates could be no taller than 5 feet 11 inches (180 cm) and weigh no more than 180 pounds (82 kg). Other requirements included an age under 40, a bachelor’s degree or the professional equivalent, 1,500 hours of flying time, and qualification to fly jet aircraft.

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NASA officials were pleased so many agreed to participate in the man-in-space project. At the introductory news conference, Shepard said that he was eager to participate as soon as he learned NASA was seeking pilots for spaceflight.

NASA introduced the astronauts in Washington on April 9, 1959. Although the agency viewed Project Mercury’s purpose as an experiment to determine whether humans could survive space travel, the seven men immediately became national heroes and were compared by Time magazine to “Columbus, Magellan, Daniel Boone, and the Wright brothers.”Two hundred reporters overflowed the room used for the announcement and alarmed the astronauts, who were unused to such a large audience.

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SpaceOrg.com

 

The other event on April 4, 1968.

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Because it is the 51st anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, I had initially planned to do a blog to reflect on that event, however after having done research I discovered that so much has already been written about it that there is no way I can add any value to the story. Therefore I will be focusing on another event that took place on that day but was obviously overshadowed.

But before I do that I want to add the one thing to the MLK story which might not be known to most. Martin Luther was assassinated in the The Lorraine Motel

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But even before that fateful day, the property at 450 Mulberry Street had a fascinating history in its own right. Before it was the Lorraine, it was the Marquette Hotel that catered to African-American clientele in segregated Memphis. Then, in 1945 African-American businessman Walter Bailey purchased the hotel, which he re-christened the Lorraine after his wife Loree and the popular jazz song, “Sweet Lorraine.”

Sweet Lorraine-291Apollo 6-The other event

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Apollo 6 (also known as AS-502), launched on April 4, 1968, was the second A type mission of the United States Apollo program, an unmanned test of the Saturn V launch vehicle. It was also the final unmanned Apollo test mission.

At the early stages of the space race all launches of spacecrafts would have been major news events.

Unlike Apollo 4’s near perfect launch and mission, Apollo 6’s launch and mission were plagued with problems. A phenomenon known as pogo oscillation damaged some of the Rocketdyne J-2 engines in the second and third stages by rupturing internal fuel lines, causing two second-stage engines to shut down early.

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The Apollo 6 spacecraft itself performed well on the mission despite problems with the Saturn V’s first, second and third stages. The problems were solved after the flight and the next Saturn V, the Apollo 8 mission, was launched manned.Ten hours after launch, the craft landed 43 nautical miles from its planned touchdown point in the North Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii. Even with the engine failures, Apollo 6 provided NASA with enough confidence to use the Saturn V for manned launches.

There was another minor event that day but one that would have a great impact on future cinematography.. On April 4 1968 a movie opened in a limited premiere at the Warner Cinerama Theater in Hollywood and Loew’s Capitol teatre in New York City. The film was 2001: A Space Odyssey,  science fiction opus by director Stanley Kubrick which would change the Sci-Fi genre forever.

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AVgeekery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ivan Ivanovich-Unsung Space “Hero”

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I know what you are thinking when you look at the picture”That looks like a dummy” and you would be right because  Ivan Ivanovich was a dummy. Weeks before Yuri Gagarin made a successful orbit of the Earth, a Soviet mannequin named Ivan Ivanovich (the Russian equivalent of John Doe) tested the dangers of spaceflight and reentry.

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Ivan Ivanovich’s first space exploration was on Korabl-Sputnik 4 on 9 March 1961, accompanied by a dog named Chernushka, various reptiles, and 80 mice and guinea pigs, some of which were placed inside his body.

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Ivan was ejected out of the capsule during re-entry and made a soft landing using a parachute. Chernushka was recovered unharmed inside the capsule.

To test the spacecraft’s communication systems, an automatic recording of a choir was placed in Ivanovich’s body – this way, any radio stations who heard the recording would understand it was not a real person. Ivan was also used to test the landing system upon return to Earth, when he was successfully ejected from the capsule and parachuted to the ground.

Because no human being had ever been to space, the test dummy was designed to test as many unknowns as possible on a real human form. And because the Korabl-Sputnik capsule he traveled on wasn’t designed to make a soft landing, Ivan’s trip tested a human passenger’s ability to bail from the capsule during descent and parachute safely to ground.

Ivan’s  second space exploration was aboard the , Korabl-Sputnik 5,  March 26 1961, was similar – he was again accompanied by a dog, Zvyozdochka, and other animals, he had a recording of a choir and also a recipe for cabbage soup to confuse any listeners inside him, and he safely returned to Earth.Ivan_ivanowich

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Who needs the Moon anyway- when the US wanted to nuke the Moon.

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Project A119 was the designated name by the US Air Force to detonate a nuclear bomb on the moon.

The project was called “A Study of Lunar Research Flights” aka ” Project A119 and was developed by the U.S. Air Force in the late 1950s.

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The aim was to intimidate the Soviet Union, who at that time were winning the space race, by seeing the nuclear flash from Earth.

The explosion would of course be best on the dark side of the moon for the best possible effect.

One of the leaders of the project, physicist Leonard Reiffel, figured  hitting the moon with an intercontinental ballistic missile would have been relatively easy to accomplish, including hitting the target with an accuracy of approximately two miles.  The accuracy would have been particularly important as the Air Force wanted the resulting explosion to be clearly visible from Earth.

The Soviet Union had successfully launched the Sputnik 1 on October 4th 1957, and the US was in need of some morale boost.

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Project A119 was cancelled though in 1959, for fears that a failed explosion on the moon might have might have adverse effects on Earth.

Thankfully the used a different approach by sending the first man to moon , a decade later,

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Explorer 1

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Explorer 1 was the first satellite of the United States, launched as part of its participation in the International Geophysical Year. The mission followed the first two satellites the previous year; the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1 and 2, beginning the Cold War Space Race between the two nations.

Explorer 1 was launched on January 31, 1958 at 22:48 Eastern Time (February 1, 03:48 UTC) atop the first Juno booster from LC-26 at the Cape Canaveral Missile Annex, Florida. It was the first spacecraft to detect the Van Allen radiation belt, returning data until its batteries were exhausted after nearly four months. It remained in orbit until 1970, and has been followed by more than 90 scientific spacecraft in the Explorer series.

Explorer 1 was given Satellite Catalog Number 4, and the Harvard designation 1958 Alpha 1,the forerunner to the modern International Designator.

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The first two jolts came courtesy of the Soviet Union, which launched the first-ever artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, on Oct. 4, 1957, and followed that up a month later by lofting a dog named Laika to orbit, aboard the Sputnik 2 craft.

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The United States tried to answer on Dec. 6, 1957, with a satellite launch of its own. But the rocket carrying the nation’s first would-be spacecraft, the 3.5-lb. (1.6 kilograms) Vanguard Test Vehicle 3, burst into flames shortly after liftoff, live on national TV.

But the 30.7-lb. (13.9 kg) Explorer 1 was not just a space-race publicity stunt; the satellite performed groundbreaking science work as it orbited Earth. It spotted fewer high-energy cosmic rays than expected, leading Explorer 1 principal investigator James Van Allen to suggest that the satellite’s detector had been overwhelmed by charged particles trapped in Earth’s magnetic field. [Space Race: Could the U.S. Have Beaten the Soviets into Space?]

Van Allen was right. The Explorer 3 spacecraft, which launched on March 26, 1958, confirmed the existence of these bands of radiation, which are now known as the Van Allen belts. (Explorer 2 had launched three weeks earlier but failed to reach orbit because of a rocket malfunction.)

The satellite was designed and built by engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. Today, JPL is one of NASA’s flagship centers, but NASA didn’t even exist when Explorer 1 lifted off; the space agency was officially established six months later, on July 29, 1958, and began operations on Oct. 1 of that year.

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Challenger 28 January 1986

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It’s hard to believe that it has already been 33 years  ago since the Challenger disaster happened. I still remember it as if it was yesterday.

One thing that I hadn’t thought of was that there was a group of children watching while their Teacher died. Looking back it make sense of course that the pupils of Christa McAuliffe would watch the launch of the Space shuttle since their teacher was on board.

37-year-old Christa McAuliffe was a social studies teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire. She was selected as a civilian and NASA’s first educator in space through the Teacher in Space Project, designed to generate publicity and inspire kids to reach for the stars. She was even going to teach a few lessons while in space.

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At 11:38 a.m. EST, on January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Christa McAuliffe is on her way to becoming the first ordinary U.S. civilian to travel into space. McAuliffe, a 37-year-old high school social studies teacher from New Hampshire, won a competition that earned her a place among the seven-member crew of the Challenger. She underwent months of shuttle training but then, beginning January 23, was forced to wait six long days as the Challenger‘s launch countdown was repeatedly delayed because of weather and technical problems. Finally, on January 28, the shuttle lifted off.

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The mission, dubbed Challenger’s STS-51L, marked pilot Mike Smith’s first spaceflight. Just before NASA lost telemetric contact with the shuttle, the crew’s voice recorder captured Smith saying “Uh-oh,” which proves that at least one member of the crew was aware something was going wrong with the launch before the actual explosion.

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Seventy-three seconds later, hundreds on the ground, including Christa’s family, stared in disbelief as the shuttle broke up in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched the wrenching tragedy unfold on live television. There were no survivors.

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  • Francis R. Scobee, Commander
  • Michael J. Smith, Pilot
  • Ronald McNair, Mission Specialist
  • Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist
  • Judith Resnik, Mission Specialist
  • Gregory Jarvis, Payload Specialist
  • Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist, Teacher

May they rest in peace and may their souls be like stars shining at night.Challenger_flight_51-l_crew

 

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The space flight that didn’t happen- The forgotten story of Apollo 1

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On January 27 1967, U.S. astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died in a fire aboard the Apollo 1 spacecraft during a launch simulation at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

The Apollo program changed forever , when a flash fire swept through the Apollo 1 command module during a launch rehearsal test. The three men inside perished despite the best efforts of the ground crew. It would take more than 18 months, and extensive redesigns, before NASA sent more men into space.

The launch simulation on January 27, 1967, on pad 34, was a “plugs-out” test to determine whether the spacecraft would operate nominally on (simulated) internal power while detached from all cables and umbilicals.

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Passing this test was essential to making the February 21 launch date. The test was considered non-hazardous because neither the launch vehicle nor the spacecraft was loaded with fuel or cryogenics, and all pyrotechnic systems (explosive bolts) were disabled

At 1:00 pm EST (1800 GMT) on January 27, first Grissom, then Chaffee, and White entered the Command Module fully pressure-suited, and were strapped into their seats and hooked up to the spacecraft’s oxygen and communication systems. Grissom immediately noticed a strange odor in the air circulating through his suit which he compared to “sour buttermilk”, and the simulated countdown was held at 1:20 pm, while air samples were taken. No cause of the odor could be found, and the countdown was resumed at 2:42 pm. The accident investigation found this odor not to be related to the fire.

Three minutes after the count was resumed, the hatch installation was started. The hatch consisted of three parts: a removable inner hatch, which stayed inside the cabin; a hinged outer hatch, which was part of the spacecraft’s heat shield; and an outer hatch cover, which was part of the boost protective cover enveloping the entire Command Module to protect it from aerodynamic heating during launch, and from launch escape rocket exhaust in the event of a launch abort. The boost hatch cover was partially, but not fully, latched in place because the flexible boost protective cover was slightly distorted by some cabling run under it to provide the simulated internal power. (The spacecraft’s fuel cell reactants were not loaded for this test.) After the hatches were sealed, the air in the cabin was replaced with pure oxygen at 16.7 psi (115 kPa), 2 psi (14 kPa) higher than atmospheric pressure.

The Apollo 1 crew commander, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, was an Air Force veteran of the Korean War. He was chosen was among NASA’s first group of seven astronauts, the Mercury Seven. Grissom was America’s second person in space in 1961. On that mission, Mercury’s Liberty Bell 7, the hatch door blew for unknown reasons upon splashdown. Grissom ended up in the water and was rescued by a helicopter (which at first tried, in vain, to pick up the spacecraft; the spacecraft was later pulled from the ocean floor in 1999).

Some in the Astronaut Office were skeptical that Grissom’s reputation would recover (many believed Grissom blew the hatch; he swore he didn’t). However, Grissom successfully commanded the first Gemini flight, Gemini 3, and was selected to do the same for Apollo.

Fellow spaceflight veteran Ed White, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, was the first American to make a spacewalk, on Gemini 4 in 1965. The images of him soaring in space for 23 minutes are still frequently seen today; it is considered one of history’s most memorable spacewalks.

Roger Chaffee was a seasoned Navy lieutenant commander who joined the program in 1963. Although a rookie in space, he had spent years supporting the Gemini program, most publicly as CapCom on Gemini 4. Now getting a chance to fly after five years in the program, he said, “I think it will be a lot of fun.”

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Every astronaut in the Apollo program had flight experience, and many were test pilots. They were used to seeing machines under development and dealing with delays, and assessing the airplanes’ readiness for flight. In the view of many of these astronauts, the Apollo command module just wasn’t ready yet. Engineering changes were still in progress as NASA prepared for the countdown test.

On his last visit home in Texas, Jan. 22, 1967, Grissom grabbed a lemon off a citrus tree in the backyard. His wife, Betty, asked what he was going to do with it. “I’m going to hang it on that spacecraft,” he answered as he kissed her goodbye. He hung it on the flight simulator after he arrived at the Cape.

The morning of the test, the crew suited up and detected a foul odor in the breathing oxygen, which took about an hour to fix. Then the communications system acted up. Shouting through the noise, Grissom vented: “How are we going to get to the moon if we can’t talk between two or three buildings?”

With communications problems dragging on, the practice countdown was held. Then at 6:31 p.m. came a frightening word from the spacecraft: “Fire.”

Deke Slayton, who oversaw crew selections at NASA and was present for the test, could see white flames in a closed-circuit television monitor pointing toward the spacecraft. The crew struggled to get out. Technicians raced to the scene, trying to fight the fire with extinguishers amid faulty breathing masks. [Video: Apollo 1 Remembered – Report from the Archives]

At last, the door was open, but it was too late.

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