It Was Not the First Time

Astronauts--and cosmonauts--have died before

The explosion that destroyed Challenger inevitably evoked memories of an earlier tragedy in America's space program. On Jan. 27, 1967, a fire erupted in the first manned Apollo spacecraft as it sat atop its Saturn 1-B rocket during a test at Cape Kennedy. The blaze killed Virgil ("Gus") Grissom, 40, Edward White, 36, and Roger Chaffee, 31, who until last week were the only astronauts to perish aboard a U.S. spacecraft.

Grissom, the second American in space, White, who made the first U.S. space walk, and Chaffee, a rookie astronaut, had been scheduled to run through a simulated Apollo launch. Suited...

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