January 27, 1967 Cape Canaveral Florida, Launch Complex 34 – The Apollo 1 Fire
The plan was to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth before the sixties ended – and we were well on our way. The Mercury Program had successfully placed American astronauts into orbit. The Gemini program had given us skills in long-duration flights, rendezvous and docking, and extra-vehicular activity (EVA, spacewalk). In 1967, the time had come to take the final steps towards that final goal – a voyage to the moon.
The Apollo 1 mission was scheduled for launch on February 21, 1967 from Launch Complex 34. The goal of Apollo 1 was to checkout the new “Block 1” Apollo Command and Service Modules in low-Earth orbit. It was to be the first manned flight of Apollo, the first manned flight from Launch Complex 34, and NASA’s first three-man flight.
On January 27, 1967 – just 35 months away from the “end of the decade” goal – things were moving fast and furious. On that Friday afternoon a Saturn 1B rocket with the Apollo 1 crew on top was standing on-pad at Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 34. Astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee were going through a realistic simulated countdown called the “Plugs-Out Test.” At about 6:30 PM, a fire broke out in the Command Module that killed the crew and put the U.S. space program on-hold.
I’ve written a lot about that event. The header photo of this blog is Launch Complex 34 at sunrise. In my opinion, this is the site of the greatest leadership lesson from the space race.
I’ve recorded a two-part video (15 minutes each part) that primarily addresses how we will remember the Space Shuttle program as it winds-down to the program’s final flight, and also addresses the subject of why we collect space memorabilia. Although the videos are mainly aimed at promoting the Space Shuttle Program Commemorative Coin*, the last part of the second video specifically addresses the greatest leadership lesson that was learned during the Space Race – a lesson learned from the Apollo 1 fire.
*The Space Shuttle Program Commemorative Coin, which my company is developing, is the focus of the first video. Please leave a comment and let me know how you like them.