Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fire in the Cockpit

Today marks the 40th Anniversary of the launchpad fire in the Apollo 1 capsule that claimed the lives of Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. As John Young says in the article, their deaths paved the way for a successful program that culminated in the Apollo 11 moon landing.

I was down at KSC a few years ago during a trip to Florida and was able to get on a tour of some of the old launch sites. Part of the tour was going out to the remains of Pad 34, which is the pad where the Apollo 1 fire took place. It is definitely a very solemn spot, just as solemn as Arlington or The Wall, but in a different way. At Arlington, you know that you are standing on hallowed ground. Pad 34 is more like an old battlefield. It appears deceptively normal on the surface, but if you know the history, you understand the significance of the area.

If you don't know the history, perhaps this plaque might educate you:

As you get closer, the site's significance becomes apparent...

"ABANDON IN PLACE"...After the site's deteriorating steel superstructure was dismantled, the concrete foundations were left to remain forever as a silent memorial to the men of Apollo 1.

Don't forget.

h/t: to this website for the beautiful Pad 34 photos.