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This Day in History: Apollo 1 Bursts into Flames, Killing 3 American Astronauts

All three American astronauts on board died in the fire: Lt. Col. Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Lt. Col. Edward White II and Roger B. Chaffee

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In this undated photo made available by NASA, (L-R), veteran astronaut Virgil Grissom, first American spacewalker Ed White and rookie Roger Chaffee, stand for a photograph in Cape Kennedy, Florida, today Cape Canaveral. VOA

US, Jan 27, 2017: Fifty years ago today, January 27, 1967, tragedy struck NASA’s proposed first manned flight of the Apollo capsule when a fire engulfed the craft during a routine test on the launchpad.

All three American astronauts on board died in the fire: Lt. Col. Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Lt. Col. Edward White II and Roger B. Chaffee.

The tragedy stunned the nation, and it temporarily stalled NASA’s push to meet then-president John F. Kennedy’s deadline to reach the lunar surface by the end of the decade

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A NASA probe and congressional hearings concluded previously unidentified fire hazards existed inside the capsule, and the subsequent decision to pressurize it entirely with oxygen created an extremely combustible environment. The hatch opened inward, which made it difficult for the crew to open it and escape.

After the deadly accident, hundreds of changes to the capsule were made, and NASA instituted myriad safety procedures. The redesigned capsules used a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen, reducing the fire risk. A new hatch was designed that could be opened in just five seconds.

Only 21 months later, NASA sent humans back into space aboard Apollo 7. And less than a year after that, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed Apollo 11 on the moon.

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To mark the 50th anniversary, NASA is holding a ceremony, which will be broadcast live on NASA television. (VOA)

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This NASA Scientist is so Excited about Mercury Transit. Here’s Why

The tiny planet traveled directly between Earth and the sun on Monday, creating a perfect alignment

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NASA, Scientist, Mercury
The planet Mercury is seen in silhouette, low center, from Washington, as it transits across the face of the Sun, Nov. 11, 2019. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls). VOA

Stargazers witnessed a rare celestial event on Monday, as Mercury passed directly across the face of the sun.NASA

Mercury, the solar system’s smallest planet and closest to the sun, won’t make the next such transit until 2032.

The tiny planet traveled directly between Earth and the sun on Monday, creating a perfect alignment.

The best views of the event took place in North and South America, while viewers in Europe and Africa were able to see part of Mercury’s passage.

NASA, Scientist, Mercury
Mercury, the solar system’s smallest planet and closest to the sun, won’t make the next such transit until 2032. Pixabay

Stargazers had to use solar-filtered binoculars and telescopes to spot Mercury, which appeared as a small black dot on the face of the sun.

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For those who could not see the event directly, the U.S. Space agency, NASA, live-streamed images of the celestial transit, which took about five and a half hours. (VOA)