• Apollo 1 artifacts are on display near the entrance to the museum stairs at the Comosphere, 1100 N. Plum St.

  • A pad worker's helmet is one of the Apollo 1 artifacts on display near the entrance to the museum stairs at the Comosphere. The artifacts are on loan from personal collector Ray Katz and will be on display through midsummer.

  • Apollo 1 artifacts are on display near the entrance to the museum stairs at the Comosphere. The artifacts are on loan from personal collector Ray Katz and will be on display through midsummer.

  • Apollo 1 artifacts, including thank-you notes and a logic schematics book, are on display near the entrance to the museum stairs at the Comosphere. The artifacts are on loan from personal collector Ray Katz and will be on display through midsummer.

Cosmosphere exhibit recalls deadly Apollo accident that jump-started innovations

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Cosmosphere opened a new exhibit Friday in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the fatal Apollo 1 test mission.

Titled "Apollo 1: Valiant Pioneers," the exhibit tells the story of Jan. 27, 1967, when a cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test killed all three crew members on board – Command Pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White II and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee – and highlights changes made to ensure that future missions would not end in the same tragic manner.

Apollo 1 was the first manned mission in NASA's Apollo program, developed with the goal of landing a human on the moon.

Visitors can find the exhibit on the main floor in the museum rotunda. Featured in it are items from the Cosmosphere and borrowed artifacts from Philadelphia private collector Ray Katz, including emergency egress plans, thank-you cards sent out by the families following the deaths of the astronauts, and a hard hat worn by a pad worker from Cape Kennedy.

"This was an unfortunate tragedy during a time when many thought the American space program was invincible," Collections Manager Shannon Whetzel said in a news release. "But failure often leads to innovation, which was the case here. Capsule design and emergency protocol changed dramatically following Apollo 1, eventually allowing us to land on the moon."