1967 Year in Review

Space Tragedies

Published: 1967
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI

Announcer: Man’s intense desire to conquer the mysteries of space, to fly to the moon, to explore the universe, reached new dimension in 1967; partly because of successes, partly due to failure, and most assuredly because of tragedies. Everyone knew it would happen one day, spaceman Virgil “Gus” Grissom knew.

Virgil “Gus” Grissom: “My crew has been serving the nation and serving the country, and here is another opportunity where they need my talent, and I am most grateful for an opportunity to serving it.”

Announcer: But even when you know the inevitable will happen, it’s still hard to prepare for it. The nation was not prepared on January 27th, 1967, when this announcement was made at Cape Kennedy.

Unknown Speaker: “There was a third drop test going on in Spacecraft 204, Complex 34, and fire broke out, there has been a fatality. We do not know who it is, yet. We are waiting on word now from the Cape. We do know that the palm crew is aboard, and a fatality was on the spacecraft.”

Announcer: Three American astronauts were the victims of America’s first space oriented tragedy, in a capsule that never left the ground - Veteran spaceman Gus Grissom, space walker Ed White, and rookie Roger Chaffee. A flash fire in the Apollo capsule, combined with an escape patch that wouldn't open fast enough claimed their lives. The astronauts were nearing the end of a simulated spaceflight on the ground when one of them yelled.

Sam Phillips: “The message from the crew, notifying of the fire, I think we'll have to play back the tape, as the board gets into action, to have it precisely, but as it was reported from on the spot of rivers and those listening to the loops, was the word ‘fire in the spacecraft’, which was attributed to one of the crewmen.”

Announcer: And that was Major General Sam Phillips, Director of the Apollo program. An investigation showed that sloppy workmanship, poor inspection, and inadequate safety design led to the accident.

Three months later, the Soviet Union launched a manned spaceship, Soyuz 1. It was their reentry into the space race after two years of not launching manned space vehicles. As usual, the Russians were jubilant and their cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov sent greetings to them from space.

Vladimir Komarov: “(Russian.)”

Announcer: The next day, after trouble developed with his spacecraft, Komarov prepared to return to earth. Soyuz 1 tumbled into the earth’s atmosphere. Komarov deployed his main parachute and its cords became twisted around the spacecraft. The parachute never opened. The cords around the capsule trapped the cosmonaut inside. Komarov died instantly as he was slammed into the crust of the earth, somewhere in Russia.


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