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

Space logo Space 1/27/2021 Hanneke Weitering
Gus Grissom, Edward Higgins White are posing for a picture: Apollo 1 astronauts (left to right) Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee posing in front of Launch Complex 34 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. All three were killed when a fire blazed up in their capsule during a ground test on Jan. 27, 1967. © Provided by Space Apollo 1 astronauts (left to right) Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee posing in front of Launch Complex 34 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. All three were killed when a fire blazed up in their capsule during a ground test on Jan. 27, 1967.

On January 27, 1967, Apollo 1 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. 

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.

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a stack of flyers on a table © Provided by Live Science

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Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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