Apollo 1 crew honored with monument

The crew members of NASA’s Apollo 1 mission were honored this week at Arlington National Cemetery for the tragedy that was the first in the history of the US space program. More than half a century ago, a fire during a pre-flight test claimed the lives of three astronauts, forever affecting the world of space.

“I just wanted everyone to remember the three,” Bonnie Lynn White, daughter of one of the slain astronauts, told CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave. “You know, they were family men, but they were professionals. They were daring and they had fun. They were just great people and I’d like to see people really go and see who they are.”

The families of the deceased astronauts requested that the monument have a Latin motto engraved in stone which translates to: “A rough road leads to the stars”. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson joined families who laid flowers at the memorial site unveiled Thursday.

On January 27, 1967, just three weeks before the scheduled launch, astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee arrived at Cape Kennedy for a dress rehearsal flight inside their command module. The mission was to become Apollo’s first crewed flight, according to NASA.

But three hours into the test flight, a fire swept through the launchpad’s control module, trapping and killing the astronauts.

Years later, when tragedy struck NASA again with the “Challenger” and “Columbia” missions, the lives lost were honored with memorial services at Arlington National Cemetery. Even though Grissom and Chaffee were buried there decades earlier, there was no memorial service at the time for their deaths, prompting families to push for a monument.

Jamie Draper, director of the Air Force Space and Missile Museum, told Van Cleave that lessons learned from the Apollo 1 incident contributed to the success of future space missions.

“The incident really shook not only the space program, but America at heart,” Draper told Van Cleave. “Without their sacrifice, the program would not have been reconfigured and we would not have gone to the Moon.”

Comments are closed.