Space: Locking the Fire Doors

Testifying before the Senate and House space committees last week, top NASA officials admitted that they had not fully anticipated the violent nature of the fire that took the lives of three Apollo astronauts in January. "Continued alertness to the possibility of fire," said NASA Deputy Administrator Robert Seamans, "had been dulled by the previous ground experience and six years of successful manned missions."

Thus it was that the ill-fated Apollo was equipped with a hatch that took 90 seconds to open—much too long to save the astronauts, who died within 20 seconds of asphyxiation by carbon monoxide. Thus it...

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