The Space Race In 1967, the US Apollo missions began; the very first, Apollo I, a ground test, ended in disaster when a fire broke out in the capsule. Early Command Modules were defective and had faulty wiring. Nominally everything was fireproof, but they'd failed to account for the fact that the capsule had been filled with a pure-oxygen atmosphere at greater than sea-level pressure for testing. The three astronauts (Mercury veteran Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White - who had made the first US spacewalk - and space rookie Roger B. Chaffee) all died in the capsule due to smoke inhalation. One of the reasons was that the hatch wouldn't open (it opened inward , which meant that the increased pressure held it shut) and couldn't be blown off by explosive bolts in an emergency ( as the flames spread in the capsule, the astronauts attempted to unbolt it from its mountings ). Ironically, Grissom himself was responsible for this feature. During his Mercury flight, there had been problems with the hatch. His capsule was lost in the Atlantic and he nearly
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