October 19, 2021
Apollo 1, initially designated AS-204, was the first manned mission of the United States Apollo Program, which had as its ultimate goal a manned lunar landing. A cabin fire during a launch rehearsal on January 27, 1967 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station Launch Complex killed all three crew members. Immediately after the fire, NASA convened the Apollo 204 Accident Review Board to determine the cause of the fire, and both houses of the United States Congress conducted their own commission investigations to oversee NASA's investigation. The fire's ignition source was determined to be electrical, and the fire spread rapidly due to the high pressure in the cockpit. The rescue of the astronauts was impeded by the hatch in the door, which could not be opened against the higher internal pressure of the cabin. Failure to identify the test as dangerous (because the rocket was not fueled) led to the rescue being hampered by a lack of emergency preparedness. During the Congressional investigation, then-Senator Walter Mondale publicly revealed an internal NASA document citing problems with Apollo's main contractor North American Aviation, which became known as the "Phillips Report." This revelation shamed James Webb, the NASA Administrator, who was unaware of the document's existence, and attracted controversy to the Apollo program. Despite Congressional displeasure with NASA's lack of openness, both Congressional committees determined that the issues raised in the report were unrelated to the accident. Apollo manned flights were suspended for 20 months, while Command Module Security was questioned. However, development and unmanned testing of the Lunar Module and Saturn V rocket continued.