"I've got a fire in the cockpit"

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Apollo 1 mission patch

Achieving the goal

On May 25, 1961 United States President John F. Kennedy had a historic speech. He believed that U.S. "should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth". This speech boosted the race to the Moon and America began working to win the race with Soviets.
Scientists, engineers, astronauts, and other thousands of people worked on a new amazing project: Apollo.


Then tragedy, not in space but on the ground. On January 27, 1967, during a preflight test for the fist manned Apollo mission a fire takes the lives of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffe. There were too many things going wrong with the new spacecraft, and astronauts knew it was not good.
Gus Grissom was one of the Original 7 astronauts, he flew onboard Mercury - Liberty Bell 7 and few years later he was assigned as Command Pilot for the first manned Gemini mission Molly Brown (althought NASA refers at it simply as Gemini 3 - the official name is Molly Brown) with Pilot John Young. Ed White became the first American to walk in space during the Gemini 4 mission in June 1965. Roger Chaffe was a rookie astronaut and that was his first assignement.
Apollo 1 crew - from left to right: Chaffee, White, Grissom

That day they had to perform a launch simulation but the work they had to do was soon very hard. Many spacecraft's system worked bad and they spent much of the time waiting while problems were fixed. The hatch was secured and the craft interior was pressurized with pure oxygen. Suddenly a spark form a switch light a terrible fire. In a pure-oxygen environment a spark is a very dangerous thing. Soon the oxygen burned. The crew tried to open the hatch, but there were no way to escape from the capsule if noone was outside to open the external hatch. Temperature grew up rapidly in the cabin and crewmember cried out "I've got a fire in the cockpit" while another "Get us out!". When people from the white room arrived at the capsule they were not able to see thru the smog and the hatch was too hot and hard to open. Only when fire estinguished itself firemen opened the hatch and found the three men dead lying into their couches.
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