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Odp: Apollo 204/Apollo 1
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Wczoraj minęły 52 lata od tragedii załogi Apollo 1

'Isn't That Enough?' Remembering Grissom, White and Chaffee, Fallen Crew of Apollo 1
By Ben Evans, on January 27th, 2019

Unwilling to fly a desk in the aftermath of World War II, Grissom left the U.S. Air Force, but subsequently rejoined the service and rose to become one of its most accomplished fliers. Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force, via Joachim Becker/

“I’m a pilot. Isn’t that enough?”

Virgil Ivan Grissom had already established himself as America’s second man in space, the first NASA astronaut to make two space missions and the first human to eat a corned-beef sandwich aboard an Earth-circling spacecraft by the time of Apollo 1. Born in the Midwestern town of Mitchell, Ind., on 3 April 1926, he was nicknamed “Greasy Grissom” as a child and his small stature—just five feet and four inches—led him to grow up with a determination to “prove I could do things as well as the big boys.”

His father worked for almost a half-century on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and Grissom, though too small to participate in many school sports, joined the Boy Scouts and led the Honor Guard. He delivered newspapers and, in the summer, picked peaches and cherries for local growers in order to earn enough money to date his sweetheart, Betty Moore. The couple married in July 1945. Grissom was described by his school principal as “an average, solid citizen, who studied just about enough to get a diploma,” but his lasting regret was being unable to fight for his country in the theater of World War II. (...)

Gemini IV crewmen Jim McDivitt (left) and Ed White prepare for a water egress training exercise in the Gulf of Mexico in April 1965. Photo Credit: NASA

“Two full-course dinners, then dessert”

Long before his untimely death, aged 36, aboard Apollo 1, Edward Higgins White II had cemented his credentials as a record-setter in America’s space program. For on 3 June 1965, on his one and only space mission, the Air Force major became the first U.S. citizen to leave the confines of his spacecraft and perform a session of Extravehicular Activity (EVA). In so doing, White became the second human to perform a spacewalk—after Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov—and, at the time of writing, he stands as the third least-experienced spacewalker of all time. Yet the time spent in near-total vacuum by White on 3 June 1965 were pivotal in turning America’s fortunes around and taking the lead in the space race back from the Soviet Union.

Son of a West Point graduate and Air Force major-general, White was born in San Antonio, Texas, on 14 November 1930. Self-discipline, persistence, and a determination to achieve personal goals was a mantra for his early life. He first took the controls of an aircraft, under his father’s supervision, at the age of 12, and throughout his childhood the White family traveled to bases across the United States, from the East Coast to Hawaii. There was never any question that White would follow in his father’s footsteps to West Point. Whist at the Military Academy, he excelled in academics and athletics, serving as half-back on the football team, making the track team, and setting a new record in the 400-meter hurdles. So impressive were his credentials that he missed selection for the United States’ track team in the 1952 Olympics…by just 0.4 seconds.

Whilst at West Point, he met his future wife, Pat Finnegan, and upon graduation in 1952 enlisted in the Air Force. Initial flight instruction in Florida and receipt of his wings were followed by assignments in Germany, where he piloted F-86 Sabre and F-100 Super Sabre jets and completed the Air Force Survival School. Toward the end of the decade, as America readied for Project Mercury, White decided that he would aim for a NASA career and enrolled on a master’s degree program at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He graduated in aeronautical engineering in 1959, having studied alongside another Air Force officer, named Jim McDivitt. Little did both men know that they would wind up in the same NASA astronaut class and would fly into space together. (...)

Backdropped by a training version of their Block 1 command module, astronauts Ed White, Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee confer before a water egress training exercise in the Gulf of Mexico in October 1966. Photo Credit: NASA

“One of the smartest boys I’ve ever run into”

The third member of the ill-fated Apollo 1 crew, and the flight’s only “rookie,” might have become the youngest American in history to complete a space mission. In fact, had Roger Bruce Chaffee launched atop the Saturn IB booster on 21 February 1967, just six days after his 32nd birthday, he would have eclipsed his best friend Gene Cernan and, indeed, would have established a record which would have endured to this day. Even in more recent times, astronauts Sally Ride, Steve Hawley, and Tammy Jernigan—all of whom made their first flights aged 32—would not have been quite “young enough” to have beaten the record so cruelly snatched from Chaffee.

That said, his youth belied a talented aviator and a skilled engineer. Chaffee came from Grand Rapids, Mich., where he was born on 15 February 1935, the son of a barnstorming biplane pilot. Aged seven, he was taken flying by his father over Lake Michigan and a fascination with aviation was nurtured. As father and son built model aircraft, the young Chaffee also developed an interest in guns and hunting from his grandfather and a love of music led him to play the French horn, the cornet, and the trumpet.

Within a year of joining the Boy Scouts in 1948, he earned ten badges and the Order of the Arrow, before eventually rising to Eagle Scout and teaching swimming. An interest in mathematics and chemistry led him first to Illinois State University in September 1953 for a year, during which time he settled on aeronautical engineering as a major, then transferred to Purdue. As a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholar, he undertook summer duty aboard the battleship Wisconsin. His undergraduate career also saw him teaching freshman mathematics classes and in September 1955 he met Martha Horn, who became his wife, two years later. (...)

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