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The Launchbox: PoD 4 - No Apollo 1 Fire

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
There's something really quite depressing about the concept of 'fate' (in the form of management motivations and the simple facts of probability) leading almost inevitably to Gus dying in a capsule fire come what may.
 

AndyC

Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
To be fair, it wouldn’t certainly be Gus.
If it had been Apollo 2, 3, 4, or 5, it would have been someone else.
Gus had worse odds because he was pencilled in a bit more (ie if the firstlanding failed, he’d be on the second attempt), but he still would only have flown a small fraction of the missions.
A greater irony is that he was killed by a hatch after all.
 

Archibald

Well-known member
Patreon supporter
Poor Grissom certainly had a bad karma with hatches. Except on his Gemini flight.

Something revealing about how shitty Block I Apollo were... most rockets and manned ships have impeccable serial numbers and numbering sequences.

Block II Apollo were numbered from 101 to 119, and no number is missing bar some oddity with 115 and 115A. Shuttles, same thing, from OV-99 to OV-105. Gemini, Mercury, same thing.

But the Block I Apollo numbering sequence is a complete mess, it looks like swiss cheese.

The one that burned was 012 (where are the first twelve then ?) there was no 013, 014 was to fly with what become Apollo 7 crew - and according to Grissom Mercury 7 fellow Wally Shirra, 014 was as shitty as 012 - so Shirra could have easily died in Apollo 2 with his crew.
Then there is a 017 - and that's it !
Seems that Block I Apollo were canned even before completion, because they were so badly build.

Overall, Block I Apollo would have been mostly a waste even without the fire. Even before the tragedy NASA merely planned two flights before throwing the shitty thing under a bus.

The only useful role those Block I ever got, was ballast (dare I say, cannon fodder) for early Saturn testing. Without anybody onboard, nobody cared if they crashed and burned or got lost. But that's a pretty expensive way of getting boilerplates capsules... the innumerable Apollo BP were far less expensive !
 
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Archibald

Well-known member
Patreon supporter
This year Archibald Chrismas present.

https://www.amazon.fr/Apollo-Forgotten-Missions-David-Shayler/dp/1852335750

An excellent book which, to my knowledge, is the only one with the detailed planning of the lost Apollo 1 mission as it should have flown on February 21, 1967 (yes, every single minute and hour was planned in advance, from launch to splashdown).
Also Shirra testimony over the second Block I Apollo, number 014, to fly later in the year... and it was a piece of junk as much as the fatal 012.
Confirming AndyC conclusion, that the Apollo 1 fire was a blessing in disguise. for the record, it took 20 months (up to October 1968 !) to cure all the flaws, even in the Block II.

On top of that, the 20 months were not lost because Grumman engineers couldn't get a decent Lunar Module either. The LM basically was not ready until February 1969. and that was completely independant from Apollo trouble - it was just not ready by any mean.
LM-1, 2 and 3 were piece of junks, overweights, badly build, with 300 flaws found in June 1968 at The Cape.

In a nutshell this mean that, even without the fire, Apollo CSM would have flown in circles around Earth and the Moon without any possible landings FOR TWO COMPLETE YEARS.
Apollo 1 (planned) 21 February 1967
Apollo 9 (flown) March 3, 1969

Two years. "They could have flown more Apollo 8 lunar orbit missions" Sure. Except JFK had said LANDING and NASA was so committed to it, when in August 1968 George Low got his "Apollo 8 lightbulb moment" he had to invent an alternate denomination for that flight profile - it just had never been imagined !

A-class unmanned Saturn & CSM testing
B-class unmanned LM testing
C-class Apollo 7
D-class Apollo 9
E-class intermediate, not flown (take the LM between Earth and Moon)
F-class Apollo 10 - dress rehearsal up to 10 miles from the lunar surface - DOES NOT LAND.
G-class first landing, Apollo 11.

Apollo 8 is nowhere to be seen ! It had to be called... C-prime. An extension of Apollo 7: CSM-only, but around the Moon, not the Earth.
E-class was to be intermediate step between Apollo 9 and Apollo 10. High Earth orbit, cislunar space, flyby, orbit - it gradually drifted into Apollo 10 territory until it was too similar, and canned.

A-class unmanned Saturn & CSM testing
B-class unmanned LM testing
C-class Apollo 7
C-class-prime Apollo 8
D-class Apollo 9
F-class Apollo 10 - dress rehearsal up to 10 miles from the lunar surface - DOES NOT LAND.
G-class first landing, Apollo 11.
 
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AndyC

Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
It's such a crying shame that it took the Fire to make them abandon Block I. As you say, Block II wasn't on the critical path, so the benefit of flying Block I (with all its problems) rather than waiting for Block II was negligible (pretty much all they got was experience with 3-person crews, and they could get that on Block II in time, anyway).

If the original EOR architecture was retained, then having a spacecraft/launcher combination to put together the staging point/station as soon as possible would make sense - but there was no way an EOR route could be done in time, anyway.
(Although, talking about different architectures, a PoD where they went for a Gusmobile Direct Ascent could be interesting)
 
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