3 astronauts honored in Apollo 1 tragedy, 50th anniversary

  • Published
  • By Heidi Hunt, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs

Three former space pioneers were honored during the 50th annual Apollo 1 Memorial Ceremony Jan. 27, 2017, at Space Launch Complex 34, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The memorial honored Air Force crew members, Command Pilot Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White II and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee, who were killed by a flash fire during a launch pad test of a Saturn 1B rocket Jan. 27, 1967.

"As we stand here at this space launch complex, it occurs to me that this program is in the shadow of great and powerful programs," said Col. Z. Walter Jackim, 45th Space Wing vice commander. "Tonight we are surrounded by names such as Delta, Atlas, Thor, Falcon, Challenger and Discovery and yet, the lives of these men can never be over shadowed by these programs.


“The sound of those thrusters can never touch us and shake us like the courage and sacrifice shown by those three astronauts,” Jackim said. “And the rockets and the engines can never burn as brightly and illuminati the world as much as the lives and the memories of these three astronauts.”  


Along with Jackim, Robert Cabana, Kennedy Space Center deputy director and Capt. John A. Sager, Naval Ordnance Test Unit commander, also served as guest speakers for the ceremony.


And, at exactly 6:31 p.m., more than 100 audience members fell silent for the conclusion of the memorial, at the exact moment the flash fire occurred, killing all three astronauts, while a NOTU bugler played Taps.


“We remember them as astronauts but we also remember them as military professionals who gave the ultimate sacrifice to move America forward and what they considered to be a desperate race of good and evil,” Jackim said.  “We remember them today as astronauts, as aviators and as fellow citizens and they are never forgotten.”


A special exhibit is located at the Sands Space History Center and focuses on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 tragedy. The History Center is outside of the gates to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. No CCAFS badge is required and admission is free. The History Center is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday; and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.