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12/6/2019 7:27:02 PM
Posted: 2/26/2007 11:11:22 AM EST
I think it should be suitably displayed. This tragedy brought many changes to NASA and the space program.


www.dailypress.com/news/dp-63429sy0feb25,1,7802978.story?page=1&ctrack=1&cset=true

A tragic artifact.

With little notice, the fire-scarred Apollo 1 capsule remains at NASA Langley Research Center after 40 years. Meanwhile, the sensitive debate about its fate continues.

BY PATRICK LYNCH
247-4534
February 25, 2007

HAMPTON -- A 1967 fire in the Apollo 1 capsule at what was then Cape Kennedy, Fla., took the lives of three astronauts and momentarily brought the space race to a breathtaking halt.

For the past 40 years, the charred capsule has sat largely unnoticed in a corrugated-steel shed at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton. Last weekend, it was moved for the first time - to a warehouse 90 feet away, where it can be kept in a climate-controlled environment.

It's not clear now - nor has it ever been -what will be done with the most heart-wrenching artifact from the otherwise-triumphant era of NASA's march to the moon. The final report from an investigation of the accident directed Langley to keep the capsule, and that order stands today.

In 1989, NASA said it was going to truck the capsule to Florida and dump it in an abandoned missile silo. An outcry about abandoning history reversed that decision but hasn't led to any known change in its status.

Any mention of the capsule since has been tempered by concern about a proper and tasteful display and a search for agreement among family members of the three deceased astronauts about what to do with it.

Is the move to a climate-controlled environment a clue that there are plans to keep the capsule for the long run?

"That's encouraging, anyway," Lowell Grissom said in a telephone interview from his St. Louis home. His older brother, Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, was commander of the fateful Apollo mission.

"The climate has certainly changed now," Lowell Grissom said. "People are looking more at what really came out of that accident. I think it would be a great thing to get it back to Launch Pad 34. That's the place it most likely belongs."

SPARK IGNITED BLAZE

Gus Grissom, Edward H. White II and Roger Chaffee died in the capsule Jan. 27, 1967, during a launch-sequence practice run on Pad 34 at Kennedy Space Center. A spark from an uncertain source started the blaze, which quickly spread in the pure-oxygen environment inside.

The three astronauts - wearing spacesuits and strapped in their seats when the fire ignited - struggled for a few minutes, yelling for help over a radio as bystanders tried helplessly to open the capsule's hatch. They were turned back by smoke and intense heat.

The oxygen burned quickly, leaving the astronauts nothing to breathe. The crew asphyxiated on toxic gases. Their tragic end struck a stunning blow to the people close to them and to a huge organization that had been charging toward its vision of putting a man on the moon.

Exhaustive investigations and examinations of NASA's work on the space program followed. Many Apollo astronauts and NASA administrators credit the success of the later lunar landings to changes in capsule design and management practices that came out of the Apollo 1 investigation.

John Young is an astronaut who went to the moon, flew the first space shuttle mission and flew with Grissom on Gemini 3. He said last month that the Apollo 1 astronauts' sacrifice was a turning point in getting the U.S. to the moon.

"They weren't paying attention. Bureaucracies get that way after a while," Young said at a 40th-anniversary memorial. "If we hadn't had the Apollo fire, we'd never have got to the moon. Without the vehicle being built right, you'd have lost one on the way."

'THERE IS NO CHANGE'

NASA said it moved the capsule Feb. 17 because the shed that it was in was deteriorating. J.D. Harrington, a spokesman at NASA headquarters, said the move didn't necessarily foreshadow any long-term plan for displaying the capsule.

"There's a lot of concerns with the proper storage of the capsule," he said. But "there is no plan. There is no change."

Lowell Grissom acknowledged that while he was perfectly open to displaying the capsule, some family members of the other Apollo 1 astronauts didn't think it should be done.

"They've kind of hidden this thing away for a long time. Exactly how it would be done is important," Grissom said of any display or memorial.

In recent years, NASA officials have been playing a more public role in anniversary memorials of the Apollo 1 tragedy. The astronauts' names are inscribed in granite at the Space Mirror, a memorial at Cape Canaveral, Fla., that also includes the names of those who died in the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters. In 2004, three hills on Mars were named after Grissom, White and Chaffee.

'IN MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT'

But for a long time, the task of keeping the memory of the crew alive fell to a few people who really had no connection to the mission.

David W. Alberg now works in Newport News as director of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. But 17 years ago, his history project as a junior at George Mason University helped bring to light the plan to dump the Apollo 1 capsule in a missile silo at Cape Canaveral.

Alberg was doing a research project about how NASA dealt with certain artifacts from the space program. Looking through archives, he came across a misfiled memo from 1989 that outlined plans to get rid of the Apollo 1 capsule. "It was going to be moved in the middle of the night," Alberg said.

He began urging NASA to drop its plans and keep the capsule. Eventually, he was given access to the Langley shed that had housed the craft for 23 years.

"There's no lights, so you crawl in through this hatch and turn on your flashlight, and your beam hits the side of the capsule with the flag and the words 'United States' and this big burn mark running through it," Alberg recalled in a 1990 Washington Times story about his effort.

"It really sparked something in me. My heart just sank seeing this thing. All this history I've just read about in textbooks and seen in films. But then I was in this dark room, touching history. It was so emotional."

After NASA decided not to scrap the capsule, Alberg stayed on the case. His research project eventually led him to a job at the then-new Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton, where he eventually became curator.

Alberg said his first goal was simply not to let history get destroyed. He thinks that the capsule should be displayed but recognizes that it could still be a long time before that's possible.

"It may take another 20, 30 years in history before cooler heads prevail," he said. "We never would've got to the moon if they'd not made changes after Apollo 1. I believe that very strongly. It's a pivotal part of the story."

Alberg attended a memorial at Cape Canaveral on the tragedy's 30th anniversary in 1997.

That event was the fruit of work by two men, Bob Castro and Mark Pinchal, who also were young boys at the time of the accident but later thought that it was glossed over.

The two actually met at the launch site, on the 25th anniversary in 1992, when both made individual pilgrimages to pay their respects.

Accompanied by NASA employees at Kennedy Space Center who shared their interest, Castro and Pinchal began working together to bring greater attention to the significance of Apollo 1.

In those years, Castro, Pinchal and a few others planned makeshift remembrances at the launch site, culminating in a ceremony with family members and a jet flyover on the 30th anniversary.

NASA was not officially involved.

Reached by phone last week, Castro, a television producer in Atlanta, said this year's 40th anniversary - in which NASA played a key role - was gratifying.

"(Remembering) the crew has come a long way," Castro said, "since it was couple guys with flashlights and a boom box, standing on the concrete pad."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 11:12:44 AM EST
Ask any remaining family members, should be their call.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 11:17:01 AM EST
Hmm...

There aren't remains of Challenger and Columbia on display. hinking.gif

I think it would be in poor taste to put it behind some velvet ropes with a sign "THREE AMERICAN HERO'S DIED RIGHT HERE!"
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 11:17:19 AM EST
I would really like to see it on display, but I don't think it's my call. It should be up to the families of Grissom, White, and Chaffee.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 2:14:24 PM EST
If it could be done with the family's approval and done tastefully then it would be ok.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 3:56:37 PM EST

Originally Posted By CAR97_M4:
Hmm...

There aren't remains of Challenger and Columbia on display.

I think it would be in poor taste to put it behind some velvet ropes with a sign "THREE AMERICAN HERO'S DIED RIGHT HERE!"


Columbia pretty much vaporized. Challenger went into the Atlantic (in pieces).

My vote would be to display it. It's a precious part of our history, and a testament to the bravery of the Apollo I crew, as well as the rest of our astronaut corps, past present and future.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 3:58:22 PM EST
No, out of respect for the men and their families.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 4:01:28 PM EST

Originally Posted By Tolip:
I would really like to see it on display, but I don't think it's my call. It should be up to the families of Grissom, White, and Chaffee.
agreed.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 4:01:56 PM EST
How bout sealing it inside its OWN concrete tomb, constructed in a public place?
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 4:11:54 PM EST
[Last Edit: 2/26/2007 4:14:02 PM EST by Airwolf]
No.

I've been an avid supporter of the space program since day 1. I was born in 1957, have tons of books in my collection on the program and the people behind it. I'm a pilot and like many others I've read the transcripts and put myself in their shoes (I had LOTS of bad dreams after Challenger and Columbia).

While I understand the historical significance of the spacecraft, I'm afraid that displaying the wreckage where 3 men died would trigger mostly prurient interest and morbid curiosity.

I know some people like myself would stand there with tears in their eyes, remembering vividly the events of that day but there are too many out there that haven't the foggiest notion of what happened, much less the program itself, now reduced to an curious footnote in history to our American Idol obsessed population.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 4:17:06 PM EST
Tomb it.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 4:20:20 PM EST
Divers aren't allowed to explore the Edmund Fitz and the same logic should be applied here. Tomb it in a way it could be retrieved easily if needed in the future and have the tomb be at Arlington or something.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 4:25:20 PM EST
No. The only reason to see it would be morbid curiosity. It ought to be entombed with a memorial built on/over it.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 4:30:16 PM EST
It definitely needs to be treated with more respect than putting it on display. A large stone monument/tomb to contain the capsule would be suitable.

Kharn
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 4:31:19 PM EST

Originally Posted By Airwolf:
While I understand the historical significance of the spacecraft, I'm afraid that displaying the wreckage where 3 men died would trigger mostly prurient interest and morbid curiosity.

I know some people like myself would stand there with tears in their eyes, remembering vividly the events of that day but there are too many out there that haven't the foggiest notion of what happened, much less the program itself, now reduced to an curious footnote in history to our American Idol obsessed population.


Amen, brother. You nailed it.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 4:35:18 PM EST
[Last Edit: 2/26/2007 4:50:09 PM EST by CAR97_M4]
height=8
Originally Posted By jnojr:
height=8
Originally Posted By CAR97_M4:
Hmm...

There aren't remains of Challenger and Columbia on display. hinking.gif

I think it would be in poor taste to put it behind some velvet ropes with a sign "THREE AMERICAN HERO'S DIED RIGHT HERE!"


Columbia pretty much vaporized. Challenger went into the Atlantic (in pieces).

My vote would be to display it. It's a precious part of our history, and a testament to the bravery of the Apollo I crew, as well as the rest of our astronaut corps, past present and future.


Not true at all.

They recovered recognizable human remains from the Challenger Columbia and the entire cockpit of the Columbia Challenger.

ETA: Uh... I mixed up the shuttles.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 4:50:57 PM EST
I don't think it is right to display a vehicle where people died as a curiosity, especially when those who died made the sacrifice for our Nation.

If you have ever been to Pearl Harbor, or some similar Memorial or National Monument, and you have seen the throngs of hot, tired, bored, and occasionally stupid tourists behaving in various mindless and disrespectful ways, then you would understand the distaste and disrespect that people display when they are only interested in a place out of morbid curiosity.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 4:54:05 PM EST
How do you feel about JFKs limo ?
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 5:12:58 PM EST
[Last Edit: 2/26/2007 5:15:50 PM EST by astrafire]
That capsule is an artifact to the bravery of the Apollo astronauts who flew after Grissom, White, and Chaffee. I think the capsule should be apart of memorial to all of the Apollo astronauts in about 50 years when all of the Apollo astronauts have past on.

ETA: I am against displaying the capsule. I recommend treating it like an occupied coffin.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 5:17:14 PM EST
[Last Edit: 2/26/2007 5:17:57 PM EST by Avalon01]

Originally Posted By jnojr:

Originally Posted By CAR97_M4:
Hmm...

There aren't remains of Challenger and Columbia on display.

I think it would be in poor taste to put it behind some velvet ropes with a sign "THREE AMERICAN HERO'S DIED RIGHT HERE!"


Columbia pretty much vaporized. Challenger went into the Atlantic (in pieces).

My vote would be to display it. It's a precious part of our history, and a testament to the bravery of the Apollo I crew, as well as the rest of our astronaut corps, past present and future.


The cockpit on the Challenger was intact until it hit the water.

NASA claims - at best - the crew was unconsious when the cockpit hit.

Audio recording prove at least some members of the crew were alive during part of the decent.

Av.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 5:25:26 PM EST

The Apollo 1 crew, from left to right, Roger Chaffee, Ed White and Gus Grissom.

Lt. Colonel Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom was a U.S. Air Force test pilot when he was selected in 1959 as one of NASA's Original Seven Mercury Astronauts. On July 21, 1961, Grissom became the second American and third human in space when he piloted Liberty Bell 7 on a 15 minute sub-orbital flight. On March 23, 1965 he became the first human to make the voyage to space twice when he commanded the first manned flight of the Gemini space program, Gemini 3. Selected as commander of the first manned Apollo mission, Grissom perished along with White and Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Va.

Captain Edward White was a US Air Force test pilot when selected in 1962 as a member of the "Next Nine," NASA's second astronaut selection. On June 3, 1965, White became the first American to walk in space during the flight of Gemini 4. Selected as senior pilot for the first manned Apollo mission, White perished along with Grissom and Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire. He is buried at his alma mater, the United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.

Selected in 1963 as a member of NASA's third astronaut class, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Roger Chaffee worked as a Gemini capsule communicator. He also researched flight control communications systems, instrumentation systems, and attitude and translation control systems for the Apollo Branch of the Astronaut office. On March 21, 1966, he was selected as pilot for the first 3-man Apollo flight. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Va.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 5:26:26 PM EST

Originally Posted By Ninian:
How do you feel about JFKs limo ?


It's on display in Dearborn, MI, but given that it was completely gutted and rebuilt with armor plating and a bullet proof "bubble top" roof -- it really isn't the same car anymore is it?
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 5:27:28 PM EST
It needs to stay in storage.

Link Posted: 2/26/2007 5:31:55 PM EST
Well, it certainly doesn't deserve to be dumped in a silo under the cover of darkness. Shit.

It is a tribute to the very brave men and women that dare to risk, and give, their lives for our continued exploration. It should be in a place of highest regard.

Gotta go, something seems to have gotten in my eye.


ByteTheBullet (-:
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 5:44:22 PM EST
Maybe a monument where the capsule would be visable but raised up and inside glass on a granite pedastal. You could see it but still have a respectful distance from it.

As a sidenote Wright Patterson in OH has the AF museum and they have a great space program section. I got to see it this summer. Got to see the JFK limo at the Ford museum too.
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