Cosmosphere to open Apollo 1 exhibit

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts. To commemorate that historic tragedy, the Cosmosphere is opening a new exhibit about Apollo 1.

"Apollo 1: Valiant Pioneers" will tell events from the entire day of the tragedy, Jan. 27, 1967, and will highlight changes made to ensure future missions didn't end similarly. The exhibit on the Cosmosphere's main floor in the rotunda will include artifacts from the Cosmosphere's collection and artifacts borrowed from private collector Ray Katz.

Artifacts on display from the mission include emergency egress plans, thank-you cards sent by the families following the tragedy and a hard hat worn by a pad worker from Cape Kennedy.

The fire during a launch rehearsal test killed astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward Higgins White and Roger B. Chaffee. All three were posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978.

NASA made several changes to the design of the Apollo spacecraft and emergency plans after the Apollo 1 fire, Cosmosphere Collections Manager Shannon Whetzel said.

"This was an unfortunate tragedy during a time when many thought the American space program was invincible," Whetzel said. "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."

In fact, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon just shy of 30 months after the Apollo 1 fire.