On January 27, 1997, I attended the 30th anniversary memorial ceremonies commemorating the Apollo 1 fire that took the lives of astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee – the three men who were supposed to have made the first flight of the Apollo program, before a tragic pure-oxygen fire in the command module took their lives during a launch pad test.
Apollo 1 fire anniversary Proach Models was commissioned to build a 1/100 scale Saturn 1B and a 1/32 Apollo spacecraft for the 30th anniversary ceremony. It was a private event for the family and close friends of the deceased astronauts. My models stood in the center of Pad 34 right under where the Saturn 1B had been standing when the Apollo 1 fire took place.
I remember the night of the accident as if it were yesterday. I was only 13 years old and stayed home all day because the schools were closed due to snow. My dad had come home from work early and we had just settled down to watch a night of television, but the only story on TV that night was the Apollo 1 fire.
It was an incredibly humbling experience to remember with the families and friends the sacrifice these three men made. Of course, I was honoured to have my spacecraft models be a part of the ceremony, but at the same time I felt so much sympathy and respect for the families. As I stood there, I remembered reading that Gus Grissom once said that if he and the other astronauts died, he didn’t want the Space Program to end. He felt that it was just one of the things that had to happen in order to accomplish the supreme goal of sending a man to the moon.
Those astronauts were true national heroes, and I will forever be in awe of the contributions they and the ones who came after them made to humanity.
Today the Proach models that were featured in the ceremony are on display at the Astronaut Memorial Foundation at the Kennedy Space Center as part of a display honoured the astronauts who were lost in the Apollo 1 fire.