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On This Day in Space: Jan. 27, 1967: Apollo 1 fire kills NASA astronauts

On January 27, 1967, Apollo astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee were killed during a routine preflight rehearsal at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The Apollo 1 fire was the first major deadly disaster in the history of the U.S. space program. 

Apollo 1 was supposed to be the first flight that NASA would conduct to prepare for a crewed landing on the moon. Less than a month before their planned launch date, a fire erupted inside the Apollo command module with all three astronauts trapped inside. 

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From left, Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil I. Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee pose in front of their Saturn 1 launch vehicle at Launch Complex 34 at the Kennedy Space Center. The astronauts later died in a fire on the pad.

(Image credit: NASA)

From left, Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil I. Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee pose in front of their Saturn 1 launch vehicle at Launch Complex 34 at the Kennedy Space Center. The astronauts later died in a fire on the pad.

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The Apollo 1 crew, from left to right, Roger Chaffee, Ed White and Gus Grissom.

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Apollo 1 crew, from left to right, Roger Chaffee, Ed White and Gus Grissom. 

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Apollo 1 crew members walk across a catwalk to the Launch Pad 34 White Room on January 27, 1967.

(Image credit: NASA.)

Apollo 1 crew members walk across a catwalk to the Launch Pad 34 White Room on January 27, 1967.

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Astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee lost their lives when a fire struck during testing for the AS-204 mission on January 27, 1967. The flight would have been the first Apollo manned mission, and NASA later renamed the mission Apollo 1 in honor of the astronauts. Following the disaster, NASA made substantial changes to increase safety.<br><br>--Tom Chao

(Image credit: NASA)

Astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee lost their lives when a fire struck during testing for the AS-204 mission  on January 27, 1967. The flight would have been the first Apollo manned mission, and NASA later renamed the mission Apollo 1 in honor of the astronauts. Following the disaster, NASA made substantial changes to increase safety.

Heat caused the air pressure inside the spacecraft to rise, making it impossible for the astronauts to open the hatch, which was designed to open inward. NASA did learn from the tragedy, and they redesigned their spacecraft to be much safer going forward.

(Image credit: Karl Tate, SPACE.com Contributor)

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