APOLLO 1 - HEROES REMEMBERED
Grissom, White and Chaffee entered the Command Module at 1PM expecting a short countdown and launch simulation but problems immediately began to surface. The first delay until 2:20PM was caused by a sour smell in Grissom's suit, finally at 2:45 the hatch was sealed and pure oxygen was pumped into the craft. Further problems developed from oxygen sensor alarms to continual communication problems backing the test up until 5:40 PM when it was put on hold. Most of the countdown procedures had been completed by 6:20 PM but the count was held a T - minus 10 minutes at 6:30 to again fix communication problems.
At 6:31 PM Roger Chaffee's voice was heard over COM link, "We've got fire in the cockpit." A few seconds later the transmission ended with cries of pain. Ed White was seen on monitors attempting to open the hatch but because of several hatch bolts it could not be opened quickly. The hatch also opened inwardly in order to create a stronger seal in the cockpit and because of the hot gases from the fire the hatch was impossible to open. Within seconds the pressure was so high it eventually ruptured the capsule. Because of the fire and the need to extinguish the flames it took an additional five minutes for the ground crew to open the hatch and by that time the three crew members had sucommed the fire. Though their suits had melted to the point that Grissom's and White's suit had fused together and they each had extensive burns it was determined that they had died from smoke inhalation.
Their sacrifice caused a redesign of the internal systems of the Apollo Command Module correcting numerous flaws in both the working systems in the craft and the design of the interior making it more accessible to the crew. These three brave American's who gave of themselves in the exploration of space paved the way for the success of future flights and the eventual landing on the moon by Apollo 11 in July of 1969. Astronauts in the Apollo program consider their success to be on the shoulders of the crew of Apollo 1 and each successive flight paid tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of , "Gus, "Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, American heroes.