This paper is going to compare the Apollo 1 and the Challenger disasters. Both space
programs were unfortunate disasters, caused by a series of oversights and misjudgments.
How did this lost of life occur in such a high tech environment?
On January 27, 1967, the three astronauts of the Apollo 4, were doing a test
countdown on the launch pad. Gus Grissom was in charge. His crew were Edward H.
White, the first American to walk in space, and Roger B. Chaffee, a naval officer going up
for the first time. 182 feet below, R.C.A technician Gary Propst was seated in front of a
bank of television monitors, listening to the crew radio channel and watching various
televisions for important activity.
Inside the Apollo 4 there was a metal door with a sharp edge. Each time the door
was open and shut, it scraped against an environmental control unit wire.
abrasion had exposed two tiny sections of wire. A spark alone would not cause a fire, but
just below the cuts in the cable was a length of aluminum tubing, which took a ninety-
degree turn. There were hundreds of these turns in the whole capsule. The aluminum
tubing carried a glycol cooling fluid, which is not flammable, but when exposed to air it
turns to flammable fumes. The capsule was filled with pure oxygen in an effort to allow
the astronauts to work more efficiently. It also turns normally not so flammable items to
highly flammable items. Raschel netting that was highly flammable in the pure oxygen
environment was near the exposed section of the wires.
At 6:31:04 p.m. the Raschel netting burst into an open flame. A second after the
netting burst into flames, the first message came over the crew's radio...