Cape Kennedy, FL Apollo 1 Astronauts Killed During Test, Jan 1967
Not until 1:55 a.m., more than seven hours after the fire broke out, were the bodies removed from the smouldering space ship. They were taken to a nearby dispensary.
"They didn't have a chance," said a NASA spokesman. "It was instantaneous."
Until this sudden disaster, so far unexplained, Americans had come through many daring space rides without a mishap. Three other astronauts had died, but in airplane crashes.
Johnson and officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the moon program would push forward with renewed dedication and purpose -- as the three men would have wanted it.
"If we die," GRISSOM once said, "we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life."
The astronauts were in their space suits, in a pure oxygen environment, when the blaze flared up. During the countdown, minor troubles had been reported with the communications and environmental control systems, but it was not known whether the fire stemmed from this.
Gordon Harris, chief of public affairs for NASA's Kennedy Space Center said the men probably died without any knowledge that there was serious trouble aboard.
The spacecraft and rocket were not fueled and explosive devices aboard the spacecraft had been inactivated.
Navy Capt. Walter M. Schirra Jr., now steps into GRISSOM'S role as command pilot for the first Apollo mission. Other members of the backup crew will be Air Force Majors Walter Cunningham and Donn F. Elsele, both space rookies.
GRISSOM, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, was one of the original seven astronauts and the first to ride a blazing rocket twice into the skies.
After his first flight, a sub-orbital hop in a Mercury spacecraft, GRISSOM would up swimming for his life when the ship sank in the Atlantic.
With Navy Cmdr. John W. Young, he flew the first three-orbit mission in Gemini 3 and became the first man to maneuver a spacecraft in flight.
WHITE, also an Air Force lieutenant colonel, was the first American to walk in space, orbiting outside the Gemini 4 spacecraft for 21 minutes.
CHAFFEE joined the space program in 1963 with the third group of astronauts after logging more than 1,800 hours in jet aircraft. He was a Navy lieutenant commander.
Parents of the dead astronauts were in seclusion, stricken with grief.
President Johnson sent personal messages to families of the lost spacemen.
The President and five astronauts -- L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., M. Scott Carpenter, Neil A. Armstrong,
Richard F. Gordon and James A. Lovell -- were at the White House in the hour of tragedy. They were celebrating the signing of the treaty on peaceful uses of outer space.
Despite the terrible loss, Sen. John Stennis, D-Miss. said the United States must press on with the conquest of space.
"I don't think this indicates any dereliction on the part of those conducting our space program," he said. "Perhaps it is only the law of averages catching up with us."
All three of the dead men were married and each had two children.
Anderson Daily Bulletin Indiana 1967-01-28
Transcriber's Note: This is only a very small part of information to be gathered on this tragedy. If you are interested in learning more, Wikipedia is a great starting place.