NASA Remembers Fallen Heroes: 50th Anniv of Apollo 1 Tragedy

Hundreds honor 3 astronauts lost in Apollo fire 50 years ago

On February 1 2003, Columbia broke to pieces as it made its return on earth.

The annual event also paid tribute to the 14 space shuttle crew members and seven other US astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice while in the pursuit of exploration and whose names are engraved on the Space Mirror Memorial, a national monument to the fallen space explorers.

NASA is opening an exhibit honoring the astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire - 50 years to the day they died.

The tribute is located near the abandoned Launch Complex 34, where the fire occurred.

On January 31, NASA will hold the main event to commemorate.

Thursday's ceremony was followed by a wreath laying at the Space Mirror Memorial.

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"Although the fire took place across the river on Launch Pad 34, their story didn't end there and their legacy lives on today", says Sheryl Chaffee, daughter of Roger Chaffee.

Two of the total three that passed away in the Apollo 1 have their graves there. The tribute highlights the lives and careers of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White II and Roger Chaffee who were lost during the fire. He believes NASA was embarrassed about the fire "and that's why they pretty much kept it in the closet as long as they have", whereas Martha believes NASA was simply in shock. Unfortunately, the events turned out for worse.

Grissom was the second American that flew to space and part of the Mercury team.

Kelvin Manning, associate director of the Kennedy Space Center, said a memorial for the Apollo 1 mission was accidentally overlooked likely because it wasn't in their generation and wasn't "on [their] radar".

The small handheld maneuvering thruster that Ed White II used to steer himself outside his Gemini capsule during the first American spacewalk features prominently in the display case for the West Point graduate whose athletic prowess almost equaled his flying acumen.

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