Heroes Remembered

Categories: Spaceflight
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Published on: January 27, 2013

Apollo 1

Forty six years ago today (January 27th), on a cold January day at Cape Canaveral, Apollo 1 was undergoing a fully crewed “plugs out” test when a fire started in the command module, fed by the pure oxygen that was used as part of the life support system. Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed in the fire.

I visited the Cape as a young child, with my family, shortly after the accident.  Apollo 1 was still on the pad.  The mood was somber, to say the least.

Complex 34, where Apollo 1 was to be launched from, is now a memorial to the three astronauts.


Twenty seven years ago tomorrow (January 28th) the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launching from the Kennedy Space Center.

I was watching the launch on CNN from the Science Building Student Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio along with fifty others. The launch was as near perfect as NASA could have hoped for, however about a minute into the launch it became apparent that something was wrong when a close-up shot showed an explosion in the external fuel tank.

As the camera panned out, the first thing that I noticed was the shape of the plume had changed. Seconds later the SRBs had broken away from the Challenger and were tumbling away from the spacecraft out of control creating a “Y” shaped plume. Challenger and the external fuel tank were no longer visible.

When the NASA flight controller announced “the vehicle has exploded”, I went on to my class.



Ten years ago, this Friday (February 1st), while re-entering the atmosphere the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over north Texas. I was watching the re-entry from my front yard and noticed that there were several streaks of light instead of one streak of light. I quickly returned to the house and turned on CNN only to find that Columbia had gone down.

What are you memories of these events?

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