Nasa / Space

Geek Trivia: The Quibble of the Week for May 27, 2008

This week's quibble comes from the May 13, 2008 edition of Geek Trivia, "Five for (Saturn) five."

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week's Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article. Every week, yours truly will choose the best quibble from our assembled masses and discuss it in a future edition of Geek Trivia.

This week's quibble comes from the May 13, 2008 edition of Geek Trivia, "Five for (Saturn) five." TechRepublic member dryd disputed my accolades for the Saturn V rocket's service record:

"'No Saturn V ever failed to deliver its payload into orbit.' Didn't one of them explode on the pad, killing all crew members?"

You're thinking of the Apollo 1 disaster, which claimed the lives of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.

Despite the name Apollo 1 -- which was awarded to the mission posthumously -- this tragedy actually occurred during a mission exercise call Apollo/Saturn 204. This was really just a dress rehearsal for a launch, but the rocket was never scheduled to lift off. Sadly, an electrical fire broke out in the crew compartment during the test and spread quickly in the pure oxygen environment. The crew was unable to open the hatch before succumbing, and all three men were lost.

To honor the sacrifice that Grissom, White, and Chaffee made for the advancement of human spaceflight, AS-204 was rechristened Apollo 1. Major changes to the Apollo capsule were made in the follow-up to the Apollo 1 disaster, but none of the blame lay with the Saturn V rocket itself.

Thanks for the quibble, and keep them coming.

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About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

3 comments
Bill Ward
Bill Ward

Jay, Apollo 1 wasn't even a Saturn V; it was a Saturn IB rocket, which would have only put the Apollo spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit. Saturn IB was used for Apollo VII, Skylab II, III, and IV, and the Apollo/Soyuz Test Project for manned flights; it was used for a number of other unmanned flights, including a few Pre-manned Apollo flights.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

I didn't realize they used a smaller rocket for early phase testing. Live and learn.

Bill Ward
Bill Ward

The particular Saturn IB that the Apollo I spacecraft was sitting on WAS scheduled to be the Apollo AS204 booster (which was going to be known as Apollo I). However, ultimately it was used for "Apollo V", which was NOT a manned Apollo mission, did not have an Apollo CSM (the "classic" Apollo spacecraft) at all, and was used for testing.... but what a test! It was the first test of an Apollo LM (the LM is just as much a piece of the Apollo Spacecraft as the CSM, as Apollo was the MISSION, not the spacecraft per se). The LM was used for orbital maneuvers to manrate the LM prior to the first manned mission that would use it (Apollo IX).

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