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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
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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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Hubble Returns To Normal Functioning Soon: NASA

After the engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated

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NASA, space, red dwarf, hubble
Hubble's backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates. Flcikr

NASA has brought Hubble Space Telescope’s seven-year old backup gyroscope (gyro) back to life, after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro earlier this month, the US space agency said on Tuesday.

A gyro is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning and is needed to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets.

Hubble’s backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates, NASA said in a statement.

Hubble
The Hubble Telescope hovering in space. Wikimedia Commons

This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5.

Additional tests will be performed to ensure Hubble can return to science operations with this gyro, NASA said.

To correct high rotation rates, the Hubble team executed a running restart of the gyro on October 16.

This procedure turned the gyro off for one second, and then restarted it before the wheel spun down.

However, the data showed no improvement in the gyro’s performance.

Hubble Telescope. red dwarf
This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5. Flickr

The team, then on October 18, commanded a series of spacecraft maneuvers, or turns, in opposite directions to attempt to clear any blockage that may have caused the float to be off-centre and produce the exceedingly high rates.

During each maneuver, the gyro was switched from high mode to low mode to dislodge any blockage that may have accumulated around the float.

They noticed a significant reduction in the high rates, allowing rates to be measured in low mode for brief periods of time.

On October 19, the team again commanded Hubble to perform additional maneuvers and gyro mode switches, which appear to have cleared the issue.

NASA mars, UAE, Hubble
The planet Mars is shown May 12, 2016 in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope view when it was 50 million miles from Earth. VOA

The rotation rates produced by the backup gyro have since reduced and are now within an expected range, NASA noted.

Also Read: New Gamma-Ray Collection Named After Hulk, Godzilla: NASA

The team plans to execute a series of tests to evaluate the performance of the gyro under conditions similar to those encountered during routine science observations, including moving to targets, locking on to a target, and performing precision pointing.

After these engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated. (IANS)