Michigan Native & Apollo 1 Pilot Remembered On Anniversary Of Tragedy
On the anniversary of the Apollo 1 tragedy, Michigan remembers the hero native who perished in a pre-launch test in a program that eventually put the first man on the moon.
A Grand Rapids native was part of the historic effort to put a man on the moon. While he would never leave earth's orbit, one could argue that the U.S. would not have won the race to the moon had it not been for the three brave men who perished on Apollo 1.
Roger B. Chaffee was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on February 15, 1935. According to Wikipedia, he became an Eagle Scout and accepted a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship after graduating from Central High School in 1953. Chaffee attended the Illinois Institute of Technology before transferring to Purdue University and earning his pilot's license.
Upon completing his education at Purdue, Chaffee completed his Navy training and began training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, and soon thereafter played a crucial role during the Cuban Missle Crisis. Chaffee earned the Air Medal for his efforts and received a promotion to Lieutenant Commander by 1966.
Chaffee was selected to be an astronaut as part of NASA Astronaut Group 3 in 1963 and was the capsule communicator (CAPCOM) for the Gemini 3 and Gemini 4 missions and received his first spaceflight assignment in 1966 as the third-ranking pilot on Apollo 1.
Sadly his career short. He along with fellow astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Ed White died in a fire during a pre-launch test for the mission at what was then the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and a second Air Medal.
Chaffee is remembered and honored with a display at the Michigan Heroes Museum. The founder, Stan Bozich, had reached out to Chaffee's parents many years ago and was able to obtain one of Chaffee's Navy uniforms and other artifacts so he could create a display.