Apollo 1 post fire

there's always a possibility that you

can have a catastrophic failure of

course this can happen on any flight it

can have only on the last one as well as

the first one so away you'll just plan

as best you can to take care of all of

these eventualities and you get a well

trained crew and they go fly

this is a CBS News special report

this is Mike Wallace at the CBS newsroom

in New York America's first three Apollo

astronauts were trapped and killed by a

flash fire that swept their moonship

early tonight during a launchpad test at

Cape Kennedy in Florida Virgil Gus

Grissom 40 years old one of the original

mercury astronauts the first American

astronaut to go twice into space Edward

white 36 years old the first American to

walk in space and rookie astronaut Roger

Chaffee 31 years old training for his

first spaceflight Apollo 1 scheduled for

February 21st these three astronauts

were aboard their spaceship 10 minutes

from a simulated liftoff at Cape Kennedy

when the fire hit at about 6:30 tonight

they were inside their spaceship

pressurized buttoned up inside their

space suits when the fire hit a

closed-circuit television camera was

relaying pictures of the astronauts

lying on their backs inside the

spacecraft atop the two-stage Saturn one

there was a flash and that was it

according to a NASA spokesmen watching

the television screen in the blockhouse

a few hundred yards away from launch pad

34 the screen went blank and he said

there was no communication from the

astronauts they died silently and

apparently swiftly their bodies have

been left in the spacecraft

according to the latest information from

the Cape pending an investigation into

the disaster

President Johnson tonight mourned the

death of the three astronauts he said

they gave their lives in the nation's

service our brave men in uniform whether

in Vietnam or seeking the frontiers of

the future he said mourn with all of us

the tragic loss of three gallant and

dedicated Airmen this film was shot

about 10 days ago down at Cape Kennedy

at the time of another test for the

Apollo spacecraft in the Saturn one

rocket Roger Chaffee the rookie

astronaut there are the three of them

Gus Grissom on the Left had white in the

middle and Roger Chaffee Grissom forty

years old

the father of teemed two teenage boys

one of the original mercury astronauts

mrs. edy white and this Roger Chaffee a

lieutenant in the United States Navy 31

years old preparing for his first

spaceflight he was the rookie in the

crew Chaffee born in Grand Rapids


he was like Gus Grissom an engineering

graduate of Purdue University the father

of two small children

Edie white 36 years old the father of

two children born of a military family

in San Antonio Texas a graduate of West

Point and Gus Grissom from Indiana a

graduate of Purdue University with me

here in the CBS newsroom is Robert watt

slur who is the executive editor of the

CBS News space unit Bob I wonder if you

would tell us a little bit about the

rocket and the spacecraft certainly Mike

this is a Saturn 1b rocket also referred

to as an uprated Saturn rocket this

lower portion I'll separate them here

for you this is the launch vehicle first

stage second stage incidentally this is

not the vehicle that eventually will

take us astronauts to the moon this is

an interim rocket that we'll be using

for the next couple of flights now what

I have in my hand now is the where the

accident occurred this afternoon this is

the launch escape tower which if this

had happened on a launch day prior to

flight an abort such as that occurred

today the thought here would have been

at the launch escape tower would have

taken the spacecraft this is the command

module where the three action astronauts

actually fly would have taken them

safely away from any blow-ups however

the type of accident that occurred today

this was an internal fire in here caused

by oxygen which we'll talk about in a

second may we look at the larger

certainly model over here this is the

same thing that we've been talking about

again the launch escape tower and this

is a larger about three times the size

mock-up that we have here now this is

the command module this is where the


today this is the service module this is

where the fuels and the electrical

systems are our housed are engineered in

here the spacecraft today was in a fully

pressurized system this means 100%


the speculation tonight and again I must

say it's speculation only is that there

was some electrical problem possibly

with some plastic wires or something of

that nature but this is speculation

purely that I know that an electrical

short-circuit occurred and of course I

think everyone knows what would happen

in the event of an electrical

short-circuit in a 100% oxygen state

that's our speculation as of the moment

Mike the three men were to have gone up

on February 21st for a 14 day awkward

that's right Mike upwards of two weeks

our guess was that it was going to be a

10 or an 11 day flight but they were

scheduled for a two-week flight and the

latest news from Cape Kennedy and from

the Houston manned spacecraft Center is

that the flight of Apollo 1 has now been

postponed indefinitely the hallmark of

America's space program since the first

mercury launch as all of us Americans

know has been its openness a

conscientious effort on the part of NASA

to let the American people share in this

incredible adventure and so among the

regular preparations for each new space

flight beginning with Mercury through

all of the gemenese series and now with

this one apollo apollo 1 there have been

a series of advance interviews with the

astronauts involved a few weeks ago down

at the manned spacecraft Center in

Houston Gus Grissom ed white Roger

Chaffee sat down with CBS News

correspondent Nelson Benton and they

talked about the mission which ended in

flames on pad 34 tonight we begin with

Gus Grissom's description of the Apollo

spacecraft itself with again with our

reaction control nozzles here with their

steam vent lines and and a lot of

electronics and things around the

outside as I let this part of the

structure here we can see the interior

you can see the three of us in our

positions I'm on the left side ed white

in the center and Roger Chaffee on the


down below each of these two outer

stations are sleep stations and then the

seats will actually move forward a

little bit and it gives us a lot of

standing room down this area here now

the area you're looking at right here is

a navigation station the sextant and

telescope are down there and the

computer and the basic guidance and

navigation is down in that area if you

can look up into this area you'll see

this is our main instrument panel and

most of the systems and their monitoring

instruments are from about this point

over and roger has as those to watch

during launching and that's this station

is our primary watch station during

orbit we will normally always have a man

in the station again some of the center

section here has taken up with guidance

and navigation instruments and

facilities for Edie and then the left

side is a primary flight station where

the our attitude chair OS or eight ball

and all the instruments and switches to

make our SPS burns

well spacecrafts can be flown actually

flown from all three pilot position I

yes as far as the flight controls

themselves are concerned that the stick

that flies it its movable we can move it

from the left station to the center

station to the right station or even

down to lower equipment bay if we need

to and we have two of them on board also

that's a sort of a quick tour but about

as good as this model allows I guess you

flew on on Mercury flew on Gemini now

you're flying on Apollo there's a law of

averages so far as the possibility of a

catastrophic thing you bother you at all


no you sort of have to put that out of

your mind there's always a possibility

that you can have a catastrophic failure

of course it's going to happen on any

flight it gonna happen on that on the

last one as well as the first one so you

just plan as best you can to take care

of all of these eventualities and you

get a well-trained crew and go fly the

spacecraft you're gonna ride on as a

to a certain extent untried you're

taking a shakedown cruise you approach

it with any apprehension as compared to

the Gemini which had been flown before

no I don't think so I think you have to

understand the feeling that a pilot has

and that a test pilot has it I look

forward a great deal to uh to the first

flight there's a great deal of pride

involved in making a first flight so I

think I'm I'm looking forward to the

flight with a great deal of anticipation

is anything scary about a first space

flight even though you've flown many

hours and conventional aircraft jet

aircraft oh I don't like to say anything

scary about it there's a lot unknowns of

course and a lot of problems that could

develop or might develop and they'll

have to be solved and that's what we're

there for this is our business to find

out if this thing will work for us I

don't think it'll be probably a whole

lot worse than a guy that's making a

first test flight on a new airplane I've

never done that so I don't know I think

everybody feels a little apprehensive

when they count down I don't see how you

could help but be a little bit excited

but I don't think anybody is you know I

don't like to use the word scary I

definitely think you're apprehensive and

you're considering what's involved there

you're thinking about it but you know

how to handle it and take care of it and

do the job