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1967: Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee are killed on the launch pad when a flash fire engulfs their command module during testing for the first Apollo-Saturn mission. They are the first U.S. astronauts to die in a spacecraft.
The command module, built by North American Aviation, was the prototype for those that would eventually accompany the lunar landers to the moon. Designated CM-012 by NASA, the module was a lot larger than those flown during the Mercury and Gemini programs, and was the first designed for the Saturn 1B booster.
For a time, the mission called AS-204 had two flight plans. AS-204A, manned by Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee,* was "to verify spacecraft crew operations and CSM subsystems performance for an earth-orbit mission of up to 14 days' duration and to verify the launch vehicle subsystems performance in preparation for subsequent operational Saturn IB missions." The flight would be in the last quarter of 1966 from Launch Complex 34 at Cape Kennedy. AS-204B, on the other hand, would be an unmanned mission with the same objectives (except for crew operations), to be flown only if spacecraft and launch vehicle had not qualified for manned flights. And there were doubts. Gas ingestion in the service module propulsion system in AS-201 and the resulting erratic firing had caused some misgivings, although these had been somewhat allayed by AS-202.50
The fire that killed the Apollo 1 crew on a test launch pad spread so rapidly because the capsule was pressurized with pure O2 but at slightly more than atmospheric pressure, instead of the ⅓ normal pressure that would be used in a mission.
BTW, it was not known as Apollo One until after the deaths of the astronauts. It was actually a test capsule that was never meant to fly in space. After their deaths, it was decided to call it Apollo One to make it seem something other than a test mishap.