Apollo One Crew remembered nearly a half-century after accident
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Jan. 27, 2016 — Family and friends of the Apollo One crew gathered for an evening memorial service and celebration of life, hosted by the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Due to poor weather in the area, this year’s service was held indoors in the Space Wing’s main headquarter conference room.
About 30 of the approximately 100 attendees were seated in the area reserved for family members, while the balance of the room was made up of servicemen and women, friends, NASA employees, and members of the Space Coast press community.
Led by Nick Thomas, the service ran for approximately 45 minutes in length with the ceremonial extinguishing of the three memorial candles aligning very closely with the clock striking 18:31 p.m. EST, the time on this date 49 years ago that a deadly flash fire swept through the cabin of the block I Apollo Command Capsule. Lost then and celebrated today were the Commander Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward White, and Pilot Roger Chaffee.
Short contributions and statements were made by a number of invited special guests, including the leading of the group in an opening prayer by Chaplain Captain Scott Conner, some welcoming remarks by Captain John A. Sager, USN, a warm series of NASA remarks from NASA Administrator Robert Cabana, and some closing remarks from Colonel Eric A. Krystkowiak, USAF.
One of the regular attendees for these annual remembrances was present tonight, providing the opportunity to welcome and express condolences directly to Betty Grissom, widow of Gus.
Shortly after the 47th anniversary in 2014, it was suggested that her health may keep her from being able to attend additional outdoor, evening services – which has been proven to not be the case. Prior to the start of this evening’s indoor ceremony, a private bus, restricted to direct family members, made a trip out to Launch Complex 34, for a short visit to the site of the accident.
Additional services this week include NASA’s Day of Remembrance to be held at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at 10:00 a.m. EST tomorrow, and the Titusville / US Space Walk of Fame’s memorial event to be held at Sand Bay Park in Titusville at 11:00 a.m. EST on Saturday, January 30.
In an odd coincidence, all three of NASA’s crewed disasters are separated by a single week. On Jan. 27, 1967, the Apollo 1 fire took place. Nineteen years later, on Jan. 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger, on mission STS-51L was lost on ascent. More recently, on Feb. 1, 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry.
Sean Costello is a technology professional who also researches, writes about and speaks publicly on the inspiring lessons within international space flight program. Prior to joining SpaceFlight Insider in early 2014, Costello was a freelance photographer and correspondent covering shuttle-era Kennedy Space Center launches for various radio and print news organizations.