Nasa / Space

Geek Trivia: What Apollo 1 practical joke became unofficial NASA policy after the loss of that mission's crew?

An Apollo 1 practical joke became unofficial NASA policy following that mission's fatal accident, in part as a memorial to the astronauts, and in part because it was a good idea.

Forty-five years ago today, NASA suffered perhaps the worst tragedy in the history of American spaceflight. On Jan. 27, 1967, the crew of Apollo 1 -- astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee -- were killed in a cabin fire during a prelaunch test exercise. While this was not the first space-related fatality, it was the most public and harrowing loss of life NASA had yet endured, and it nearly derailed public and political support for the Apollo program.

NASA nonetheless endured, and just 30 months later placed a pair of Americans on the surface of the moon. Moreover, those aforementioned inaugural moonwalkers, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, would likely be the first to point out that they never would have set foot on the Sea of Tranquility without the work performed by, and lessons learned from, the Apollo 1 crew.

The Apollo 1 tragedy directly altered innumerable NASA policies, foremost among them the composition of space vehicle cabin atmospheres. The Apollo 1 fire was caused in part by a pure oxygen atmosphere inside the capsule cabin. Every NASA flight since has used an oxygen-nitrogen mix for cabin atmosphere during launches. The insistence on largely non-flammable materials in cabin designs, and the quick-egress ability of space vehicle hatches, are also direct consequences of the Apollo 1 tragedy.

Often lost in the obsession with preventing another Apollo 1 fire were the contributions made by Grissom, White, and Chaffee during their lives. In fact, one Apollo 1 practical joke became unofficial NASA policy following the accident, in part as a memorial to the astronauts, and in part because it was a good idea.

WHAT APOLLO 1 PRACTICAL JOKE BECAME UNOFFICIAL NASA POLICY FOLLOWING THE LOSS OF THAT MISSION'S CREW?

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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...

5 comments
Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

OK, I admit it: Mary pointed me to it. Thanks for the mention! And if you know where I can find some Romulan Ale, please advise.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

2011 - 1967 does not equal 55. Try 45. I was 11 and I remember it. I don't remember anything from age 1.

Rexxrally
Rexxrally

It helps to explain why Jay is a writer and not a mathematician

J_G_Stitt
J_G_Stitt

Shouldn't that be 45 years ago?

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... and then sends them back in time for publication. It's an artifact of procrastination.

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