Chaffee Grissom White
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On January 27, 1967, tragedy struck the Apollo program when a flash fire occurred in command module 012 during a launch pad test of the Apollo/Saturn space vehicle being prepared for the first piloted flight, the AS-204 mission. Three astronauts, Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, a veteran of Mercury and Gemini missions; Lt. Col. Edward H. White, the astronaut who had performed the first United States extravehicular activity during the Gemini program; and Roger B. Chaffee, an astronaut preparing for his first space flight, died in this tragic accident.
Beginning at 23:31:04.7 GMT (6:31:04.7 P.M. EST), the crew gave the first verbal indication of an emergency -- a fire in the Command Module was reported.
Emergency procedures called for the Senior Pilot, occupying the center couch, to unlatch and remove the hatch while retaining his harness buckled. A number of witnesses who observed the television picture of the Command Module hatch window during this stage of the fire discerned motion that suggests that the Senior Pilot was reaching for the inner hatch handle. The Senior Pilot's harness buckle was found unopened after the fire, indicating that he initiated the standard hatch-opening procedure. Data from the Guidance and Navigation System indicate considerable activity within the Command Module after the fire was discovered. This activity is consistent with movement of the crew prompted by proximity of the fire or with the undertaking of standard emergency egress procedures.
Personnel located on adjustable level 8 (A-8) adjacent to the Command Module responded to the report of the fire. The Pad Leader ordered crew egress procedures to be started and technicians started toward the White Room which surrounds the hatch and into which the crew would step upon egress. Then the Command Module ruptured...