During a ground test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft, a fire breaks out in the 100% oxygen atmosphere of the Apollo capsule, leaving the crew – Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee – unable to operate or open the hatch. The searing heat burns through their oxygen hoses, suffocating the three astronauts in short order. Months of investigations and accusations follow, leading to changes of management at both NASA and North American Aviation, the aerospace company contracted to build the Apollo command/service module. Extensive redesign of the Apollo vehicle follows, including a switch to a nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere and a complete rethink of the hatch, and manned flights won’t resume until late 1968.
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