21 September 2009
"Thanks also for the URL to the youtube video. The speaker is very ignorant of basic physics, and contradicts himself a few times (in the sense of Physics)."
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki
Julius Sumner Miller Fellow,
The Science Foundation for Physics,
School of Physics,
The University of Sydney
2. Replying to Jarrah and his claims about the Apollo 1 fire:
"Guys like this idiot Jarrah White are a dime-a-dozen and no matter what we say, they are not going to change their mind."
Mr Stephen Clemmons
Apollo 1 Pad Technician (North American Aviation),
Present on Level 7 during AS-204 fire, 27 JAN 67
3. Replying to claims that radiation or solar flares would have killed Apollo astronauts:
"...all space missions carry devices to measure the radiation doses. Astronauts should not be outside of a space craft if there were an SPE. They should be shielded inside the space craft. Hence, radiation exposures for Apollo missions would be very small. Hence, I believe that radiation exposures from Apollo missions were very small, unless astronauts stayed outside during an SPE about which they would have been informed..."
Richard B. Setlow
Senior Biophysicist Emeritus,
Member of the National Academy of Sciences,
Brookhaven National Laboratory
4. Claims that the MOCR flight controllers could have been fooled by a simulation instead of a real flight:
"The simulations were good but far from being perfect and they always required some kluges that Pete Klapach or others had to fix each time we ran a simulation. The data flow paths were different and sequencing of data from the tracking sites, pre-processed into 2.4 kbps or I believe later 4.8 kbps bit streams. We did elaborate checkouts of these paths from the bird to a spot on our displays or event lights. The tracking sites knew where their antennas were pointed and when they had data, etc, etc. These questioners must think that we are stupid (hundreds of us that is); the data was recorded, archived and analyzed by dozens of engineers. Don't they know that it was US who conducted simulations, so we would be fooling ourselves?"
Apollo Flight Controller / EECOM
20 September 2009
13 September 2009
Now new evidence has come to light which once again proves that Jarrah's claims are wrong. Dr O'Leary has a close associate by the name of Wade Frazier. Wade confirmed that Jay was accurate nd telling the truth... as always.
Details can be read here.
04 September 2009
It has been nearly forty years since the night of the fire that killed three of America's best Astronauts, Virgil I Grissom, Edward White II and Roger Chaffee. In the years following the fire, it was almost impossible to forget the tragic events that night and even today, what happened that night is firmly etched in my memories.
My thoughts go back to the 27th of January 1967 to a lonely launch complex named Pad #34 on the north side of Cape Canaveral, Florida. I had the misfortune of being next to Apollo 1, America's newest spacecraft built by North American Aviation, at the crucial moment when it burst into flames.
Even though it has been nearly 40 years, the memories are as fresh as that fateful day and no matter how hard I try to forget, I still see the smoke and flames. I can still hear the cries of my teammates as we try to get the hatches open. I can still see the flames reaching up toward the Solid Booster Rocket mounted on top of the spacecraft. I can remember my hopes that the Astronauts suits would just hold until we could get in.
The events of 9-11 in New York City brought it all back -- the fires in the WTC Twin Towers --fireman rushing into the inferno to do their job -- confusion and cries for help that kept the TV scenes rolling day after day.
We too had our heroes that evening, but they were never acknowledged and history has all but forgotten them except for the memories of those who were on the pad that night.
The White Room on the top floor of the Gantry Tower, level 8, provided service access to the Spacecraft. Here North American Aviation (NAA)Technicians, Jim Gleaves, Leadman, Jerry Hawkins and myself, Steve Clemmons, Pad Leader Donald Babbitt and L.D. Reese, Quality Control Inspector was standing by to support the final test leading up to a launch three weeks later. It was known as the plugs out test and completion would certify that the Spacecraft was ready for launch.
I was monitoring the panel feeding oxygen through a flexible hose into the Spacecraft through access port #14. Donald Babbitt, Jim Gleaves and Jerry Hawkins were monitoring headsets and speakers for any instructions to help in the test. They were lounging in chairs scattered around the room, following the various conversations between the Astronauts and Cap Com.
On level 7, twenty feet below, two technicians and a quality control inspector were standing by the umbilical panel located on the service module, ready to catch the cables that would be jettisoned at some point in the test. The rest of the crew had left the tower for the evening break and was supposed to return between 6:30 and 7:00 to relieve us.
It was very quiet and we were talking among ourselves about the conversations between the NASA Engineers in Block House and the Astronauts. The Astronauts had been in the Capsule since about 2:00 p.m. that afternoon and tempers were getting a little frayed. There had been problems all day and the most irritating of these problems was poor communication between the Spacecraft and Cap Con. Somewhere on the Cape, someone had left a headset mike open. In those days, headsets had hand controls with mike buttons which were always jamming.
We could tell that Grissom was getting agitated because of the scuffling noises coming from his side of the Spacecraft, which would suggest that he was getting restless. At 6:20 P.M., a hold was called to allow the Engineers time to try and get the communications cleared up and straighten up some of the procedures. We kinda relaxed as we knew it was going to be awhile and there was nothing we could do.
There was some minor chitchat between the Block House and Capsule, and the engineers were getting ready to pick up the count. The test conductor had just announced that the count would resume at 6:30.
The last test of the day was the Emergency Egress where the Astronauts would declare an Emergency and exit the Spacecraft on their own. We had been expecting this to start at any time so it was no surprise when we heard the word "Fire, we've got a fire in here." It has never been established as to exactly what was said.
At first we thought that they had jumped the schedule and this was part of the procedure.
I yelled out to Jerry Hawkins, "Did you hear that? Did they say there's a fire inside?" "Yea, sounded like it." Jerry yelled back but we still didn't believe it.
L.D. Reese, the NAA Quality Control Inspector threw his headset down and ran toward the lone fire extinguisher on that floor, he had heard the words clearly.
I looked over toward Jim Gleaves and he had a shocked look on his face. He realized that we were in trouble.
I heard Jim yell, "Let's get the men out" as he started to run toward the door leading out to the swing arm, just a few short feet away. He stopped, realizing that he didn't have the tool to open the hatches.
We needed a "T" handle allen wrench to open the hatches and it had been placed in the leadman's desk because we didn't think it would be needed. Jerry Hawkins ran to the desk and opened the drawer, frantically searching for the wrench.
Donald Babbitt, the pad leader, was trying to contact the blockhouse but the headsets went dead. He was still trying to confirm what we had just heard.
A million questions were running through my mind.
Is it a fire?
Did I hear it right?
Is it part of the test?
Then I happened to look up at the small window above Chaffee's seat. It had turned bright orange. It was then that I realized that we had a real fire on our hands.
My first words, almost a scream was "Oh God, it's happening, we've got a fire on board". But no one heard because they were scrambling to find the tool.
They had also seen what I saw, the orange window.
I was sitting next to access port #14 monitoring the O2 panel, which was feeding breathing oxygen into the ECU system. I started calling the engineer in the blockhouse on the headset, but for some strange reason, the headset went dead. (Later I found out that the Test Conductor had ordered communications cut in fear that word would get out about the fire.)
I had a choice. If I shut off the panel, it could starve the capsule of oxygen and if the Astronauts had survived the original fire, they would die, and if I didn't, it would feed the flames making the situation much worse. I jumped up and ran toward the intercom box which was against the back wall and frantically turned the channel selector, looking for an active channel.
Nothing. I needed answers' NOW.
Jim started toward the door, followed by Donald Babbitt and L. D. Reese when the capsule erupted in flame. The force of the blast knocked Jim against the door, which opened inwardly toward the spacecraft. Their nylon suits and shop coats were now on fire from the hot chunks of burning material that was showering down all over the clean room.
As Jim got up and struggled to get the door open, Jerry found the tool and followed them out on the swing arm.
I looked back to where I had been sitting. The chair, engulfed in flames, was reduced to a bare metal frame. The O2 panel was almost hidden in the heavy smoke and fire shooting out of access port #14.
(This is the opening that shows up on most of the pictures of the fire where the most damage occurred)
I knew that I would have to get back to it somehow if I could get an answer.
But nobody seemed to be on any channel, just dead silence.
By this time, flames were reaching the ceiling, sending out burning chunks of Teflon and thick acrid smoke and secondary fires were breaking out on level 7, just below us.
Flames continued to shoot out of the access ports, almost like blow torches. I continued to try to reach somebody in the blockhouse hoping the headset would come back on. I wanted to stay in the area to see if they wanted me to turn off the oxygen panel.
For what seemed like hours, I waited, but it was only about forty five seconds.
And the area was getting hot, the carpet was now burning and I decided that I had better get out while I could and debated whether to shut off the panel or leave it running. Finally, I decided to leave it on and evacuated to the Swing Arm white room to join my teammates.
I would guess it was almost one minute since the fire started.
The Swing Arm White Room was positioned next to the Spacecraft Command Module and was a part of the service structure clean room during ground tests. The only way in was to exit the Service Clean Room onto the catwalk, turn right and go to the end, about six feet from the door to the service clean room.
According to Jerry, it was sheer pandemonium when they first arrived, Heavy biting acrid smoke, heat and flames filled the small room, hardly large enough for three people. Jim entered first, followed by Jerry. Just as they reached the capsule, another blast of fire and smoke shot out into the room, driving them back out on the swing arm.
They decided to wait until the flames subsided before going back but they knew only seconds remained if they were going to get them out alive.
And these precious seconds were ticking away.
In the meantime, L.D. had found another fire extinguisher (note there was only two on that level) and was now looking for gas masks. If they could get a mask that worked, they could go back in.
Fire and dense smoke continued to pour out of the spacecraft and both levels of the service filling both rooms with flames, heat and thick acrid smoke.
Jim and Jerry couldn't wait for a mask and went back in.
Donald was trying to find a headset that worked so he could establish communications with the blockhouse. We needed help badly. Mostly something to put out the fire.
I think in the back of our minds, we were worried that the 9000 lb. escape rocket sitting over our head might go off. It only took a flame of 400 degrees in one of the engine nozzles to set it off. The fire balls now coming out of the spacecraft were floating up around the rocket, captured by the penthouse walls that protected this rocket from the elements.
The smoke was so thick that Jim couldn't see the spacecraft, but could only feel around for the BPC Hatch locking hex hole with the T-Handle, he was now nearly blind from the acrid smoke. Jerry was almost as bad off. Both were so hoarse they couldn't talk. They found the hole and inserted the tool.
There was a problem because the BPC Hatch had only been partially installed and seemed to hang up and it took extreme force to dislodge.
They finally got it off and passed it out the door, then started on the second hatch.
I arrived just as they started removing the 2nd hatch. I realized that Jim was in bad shape, near the point of collapse and persuaded him to go to the umbilical tower and get some fresh air. Jerry and LD continued to remove the hatch.
There was a guard standing next to the elevator.
"How about sending the elevator down so we can get some help up here?" I asked.
"I can't, I have to keep it here in case any of the astronauts survived" he replied.
"Well, anyway, would you watch out for Jim, he's pretty bad off" I replied.
Then I returned to the fire.
One problem was that as a matter of safety, we would always send the Gantry Elevators to the top floor in case someone had to get down in a hurry. Now the elevators had to descend to the ground, then return, a full two minutes.
Jerry, LD and I were working in short 20 second relays on the second hatch, but we were having a problem. The lower edge of the Boost Protective Cover extended well below the lower crown of the heat shield, acting like a giant inverted funnel for the fire and smoke coming from the spacecraft and secondary fires on level 7.
This directed the fire inside the BPC to the hatch opening.
Donald Babbitt found a headset that worked and was trying to coordinate rescue efforts from the blockhouse.
I don't believe that our crew on the ground knew what was happening and was not aware of our situation. When L.D. or I would go out into the fresh air on the swing arm we started yelling at the top of our voices "Get help, we need fire extinguishers and Scotty Air Packs". Every time we went out, we called out for help.
Some of the men heard us, poured out of the Tech Trailer and headed for the tower, bringing fire extinguishers. They knew that we were in trouble and the thoughts of that escape rocket going off was at the top of their mind. If it did, all of us were cooked.
There was no time for the elevators to come down so they started climbing 200 ft of stairs. One extinguisher, shown on the picture of the fire damaged access port #14 was originally on the ground, but was carried up the steps by two technicians
On one of his trips out to fresh air, L.D. found another fire extinguisher and some gas masks in an old foot locker. These masks were used for UDMH fuel handling but were of no use for the smoke we were encountering. When we tried to peel the protective tape on the inlet side of the canister, the tape had seized due to age and would not come off. So much for the gas masks.
We had to hold our breath and could only stay in the area a short time, probably about twenty to thirty seconds because of the dense biting smoke. Fire and hot smoke continued to pour out of the BPC opening, preventing us from getting more than three or four turns at a time. (Each hatch required 40 turns of the T Handle to release the finger latches)
Just as we were preparing to remove the 2nd hatch, the handles were too hot to hold. Jerry grabbed the extinguisher and directed the CO2 onto the handles, cooling them long enough for us to remove the hatch.
We were now getting heat and black smoke from the area between the pressure bulkhead and the heat shield which prevented us from getting to the third hatch mounted to the pressure bulkhead. Occasional flames would flare up and Jerry used the second extinguisher to bat them down, as well as cool the third hatch. The three of us continued to work in 20 second spurts until the third hatch fell inside.
Four minutes and fifteen seconds had passed before the last hatch gave and dropped inside, but just partially, because it seemed that something was blocking the way (this something proved to be the body of Ed White.).
Meanwhile, on level 7, the men, shocked and totally surprised when flame, smoke and bits of burning debris started to rain down on them, evacuated the room looking for fire extinguishers and anything else to fight the fire.
Fire had now broken out all over the room, setting the heavy rubber cushions around the door and floor opening on fire. When they returned with two fire extinguishers, they tried to put the small fires coming from the heavy rubber pads but flames were still shooting out from around the service module and the spacecraft. Heavy smoke filled the room, making it impossible to breathe.
Jessie Owens, a NAA propulsion engineer came down the back stairs from level 8, his hair and eye brows singed and clothes half burned off. He had been caught just at the instant fire started shooting out of access openings as he was trying to get to the spacecraft, but the flames drove him back.
Shortly afterward, men began to arrive with fresh extinguishers and they went on to extinguish the secondary fires. They were trying to get to level 8 but that area was still burning. The main fire in the spacecraft was slowly going out on it's own. They began to mop up the remaining fire and proceeded to the swing arm white room, by this time, the fire was out and the hatches had been opened.
One man that stood out was Dale Higgenbottem, NAA QC, was standing on the back side of the fire on level 8, directing his extinguisher at the fireballs going into the penthouse. I have always felt that his efforts prevented a bigger catastrophe.
This part of the story has never been told: It is from conversations that occurred at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base Hospital several hours after the fire by some of men.
Workers had started to evacuate the tower according to standard procedure. When they heard the cries for help coming from the top of the tower, they stopped and started running back into the tower, bringing fire extinguishers they had located in various places, not knowing what they were going to find.
They expected the rocket to blow at any moment.
Others poured out of the various support trailers located at the base of the tower, all heading toward the tower which was in imminent danger of blowing up because of the solid rocket motor and explosives packed in various places inside the rocket.
Forty three extinguishers were found on the two levels after the fire, only four were available at the start of the fire (two on each floor).
The umbilical tower elevator had been locked out on the top floor waiting for the normal egress of the Astronauts and the attendant had orders not to go down without the Astronauts. This prevented help from coming up the only way not blocked by fire. Level seven and eight enclosures which protected the Spacecraft and Service Module had been sealed with heavy rubber bumper seals for environmental purposes and the steel entry doors had been locked on the orders of the Test Conductor and Pad Security.
Using fire extinguisher bottles as rams, they tried to beat the doors in but to no avail. This created a problem getting in from the outside, as the only other way in was through the umbilical access covers located on the side of the clean room on level 7, not accessible by ladder or decking. Several men climbed out on the steelwork to reach these opening, then when they had gained access, opened the doors from the inside.
When they reached the 7th level, they started putting out the fires coming from the heavy rubber bumpers and seam seals that insulated the spacecraft service area. By this time, some of the fire had died down and the smouldering rubber was creating huge quantities of heavy black smoke. Without gas masks, they continued to work their way up to level eight and onto the Umbilical Swing arm.
They all knew that several hundred pounds of explosives had been installed and a 9,000 lb. thrust solid fuel rocket booster was mounted on top of the spacecraft, either of which could go off at any second.
Later, I remember talking to one man, Dale Higgenbottom, NAA QC, armed with a fire extinguisher who had made it to back side of level eight. He was watching for balls of fire that would float toward the penthouse(the housing around the Escape Rocket), which he would attempt to extinguish. He did a good job because the rocket didn't ignite. They counted 43 empty fire extinguishers on levels seven and eight after the fire was over. The escape rocket as well as the support structure had substantial fire damage.
It took us four minutes and fifteen seconds to get the three hatches off and by this time, other workers had arrived to relieve us. Several small fires still lingered but these were now being quickly extinguished.
As the last hatch fell, I was kneeling on the right side and Jerry on the left. I could get in but could only go so far because of the heat and smoke and restricted opening. I felt around the center seat, still barehanded, for Ed White's body but could not find it.
I could see from the damage that it had been a bad one, but amazingly, the small lights around the seats and consoles were still burning. I could hear noises coming from the inside, venting air making weird, almost human squealing sound, crackling, popping noises of metal cooling. I could see something on the couch where Chaffee was supposed to be, but it was just a black shape in the dark. I backed out and Jerry went in. He looked around, feeling for anything that would indicate they were there, and came out, tears in his eyes, "They're gone, Steve, they're gone. I can't find them".
At first we thought the bodies were cremated but there was no way we could tell.
With tears streaming down our face, partially from the searing gases and partly because of the sheer disappointment that we couldn't save the Astronauts, we backed away from the hatch opening. L.D., who by this time had found a workable gas mask, slipped into the partial opening almost up to his waist. He thought he heard something, which turned out to be the same squealing noises heard earlier, and jerked his mask off, hoping to give it to any astronaut he found alive. He slowly backed out, big tears streaming down his face, saying "They're dead, they're all dead".
We backed out of the way for the Donald Babbitt, the Pad leader to take a look. He looked inside and with tears streaming down his face, speaking over the headset to the test conductor, "I can't tell you what I see".
That let everyone know it was bad.
I guess it's all right for grown men to cry, anyway we really didn't care what people thought, we had just lost the crew and the spacecraft, both our responsibilities and we couldn't do anything about it.
According to all reports from the NASA Medical Staff, Everything was to no avail as the Astronauts were dead, killed within 18 seconds after the first explosion.
NASA never acknowledged the contributions of these men on the tower that night and their names were never published.
In fact NASA acted like it was our fault. The only ones that received NASA Commendations were the six of us on level eight and that was only after Congress told them to.
We always thought that was rather unfair. The entire crew considered the spacecraft and Astronauts their responsibility. We had trained from day one working around Aircraft and rockets that the crew was number one and to handle anything that might happen. At that time, we were the only ones who knew how to get the hatches open so we couldn't wait for someone else to get the men out. We were only doing our job.
Yet these men that came back to the tower that night came back, not because they had too, but because they responded to our urgent calls for help, knowing full well the danger they faced. I don't think they considered the fact that they could be injured or killed but only knew that they had to do something.
Investigations that followed showed that if the main fire inside of the Spacecraft had continued for one more minute with the same intensity, peaking at twenty-five hundred degrees, the ending would have been very tragic. The solid fueled booster rocket could have ignited, and the explosives would have gone off, destroying the pad and everyone within 1000 feet of the structure
I almost left out the part that Hank Rogers, a NASA QC inspector, played but not intentionally. He was on his way up in the elevator to level eight that night when he stepped out into a room of horror and immediately saw that the spacecraft was on fire.
He could have gotten back on the elevator and escaped to safety, knowing the dangers involved but he didn't hesitate. Instead he made his way through the smoke and fire in level 8 to the swing arm and began to help any way he could. He had not been trained on how to get the hatches off but he tried.
These men were our real heroes that evening. Even if NASA has forgotten and has tried to ignore the events of that day, I feel that I can speak for the Spacecraft Crew in saying thanks to those that came back.
I am sorry to report that Jerry Hawkins, L.D. Reese and Dale Higgenbottom have passed away in recent years.
This is not the end of the story. The best is yet to come.
(Copyright Stephen Clemmons, 2004)
We can now change that.
I was lucky enough to be able to contact Mr Stephen Clemmons, one of the Pad 34 technicians who was there on Level 8 that fateful night. With his permission, I can quote some portions of a book he has written about his experiences that night.
Listen to the words of someone who was there:
There is a book called "Apollo, The Race to the Moon", by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox, Simon and Schuster, copyrighted in 1989 that is the most accurate of all the accounts. I have read all the books that were published by the Astronauts and find them sadly lacking in facts about the fire, some even went so far as to make up a story because most of them had a problem.
None of the men on Apollo 1 fire that night would talk, has ever allowed an interview or discussed the fire in any detail. I am the first, as far as I know that has ever spoken in print about that night. And that was only twenty years after the fire, because I felt that the real story has never been accurately portrayed.
Scott [Grissom] came up with a theory that someone in NASA or North American Aviation was out to get his Dad to keep him from being the first to land on the moon. They were supposed to have sabatoged the Spacecraft which resulted in the fire that killed the three Astronauts. He was supposed to have found the area and the item that was sabatoged, a switch.
He sent me a long supposition statement to be verified to back up his claims, but I could not go along with it because it didn't fit the actual circumstances or time line of what they found shortly after the fire, or what I remembered happened that night.
The big question "Did Gus blow the hatch" has never been addressed from the stand point of NASA's failure to adequately provide a safe and reliable flight system.
To build such a dangerous item with no fail safe atributes is typical of the attitude of NASA at the time and has continued throughout the history of NASA through Challenger and Colombia. Their one fault is the lack of safety oversight which was just recently pointed out during the Colombia Accident Investigation.
We now know that the system on Mercury had a flaw and if it hadn't happened with Gus, it would have happened sooner or later, and later would have been disastrous. Suppose it had occurred when John Glenn or Wally Shirra were out in space. It would have been the end of the Space program as we know it.
I know that there was a major design change on the emergency hatch system before the flight of John Glenn. I talked to one of the McDonnell Douglas engineers on Mercury and he admitted that it was a defective design. A new fail safe system was incorporated that would only fire when the Astronaut really meant for it to happen.
If there's someone out there that took part in this modification at McDonnell Douglas, join in.
NASA will never admit it. NASA has always had a problem accepting responsibility. Since Gus was the Pilot, it was easy to blame him, letting NASA off the hook. They tried to blame the Apollo 1 fire on the contractor,the Apollo 13 explosion on a switch in a fuel cell, the contractor's fault, Challenger was blamed on a faulty "o" ring and Colombia on faulty foam coming off, again saying that the contractors were at fault.
Only after a long and enlightening investigation did they admit that yes, they were wrong.
... I can only speak for Apollo 1. The crews didn't change. There was a total of 44 technicians and supervisors on the spacecraft crew and we worked each craft in turn, some changing according to manpower requirements, and some left on their own initive because of changing views. Many were discouraged with the setup and tired of the flip flops within NASA and usually went on to other things, but not because of the accidents. In fact N.A.A. wanted the crews to stay together to create a cohesive work force. We stayed together through Apollo 13 when the workforce was cut in half due to the accident.
Many came back when the flight schedule was resumed but I didn't because I was involved in other things. Frankly I was fed up with what had happened within NASA. Nothing changed, just the faces as the space program went on to have two more fatal accidents.
Without the proper protective equipment suitable for high temperatures, which was not available and the facts that the suit melted, including the oxygen hoses, and the fire lasted for over four minutes giving off toxic fumes similar to phosgene from the teflon pads used throughout the spacecraft, there is no way that anyone could have survived.
The main cause was a something highly inflammable in the area below Grissom's couch.
Two items of concern was the highly inflammable material, Velcro. Not the velcro itself but the material used to attach it to the walls. A highly inflammable adhesive.
Flight rules was violated because the rubber mats, plainly stenciled "Not for Oxygen Use" was placed on the floor above the equipment bay.
Another thing, there was no method of detecting grease or contaminants prior to the Capsule going to internal pressure. There was a source of grease just outside the capsule near the entrance to the whiteroom swing arm.
Any type of hydrocarbon will form an explosive mixture, shock sensitive after several hours in a 100 percent oxygen atmosphere and will explode into a million parts when jostled or struck.
In an instant, it will cover an area with burning particles. In several private tests conducted using a small amount of grease, this was verified.
NASA never considered this.
There are several other things that happened that never made it into the report and I'll cover them later.
When I first went out to Pad 34 as an Electrical Inspector, I was appalled at the reckless way that propellant lines was treated. Lines were opened, washed off with alcohol and reconnected, electrical panels and cables disturbed with no inspection coverage, at least not what I was used to. On the DoD side, 100 percent inspection was normal. But on the NASA side, only survielance inspection was required and a running account was documented by Engineering on a Test Prep Sheet, which was the only inspection document required. Incidently design changes were also installed on TPS with out design approval. There was an attitude at Kennedy of "do everything, even if it's wrong" to get us to the moon. It was called "Moon Fever".
The answer when we asked questions about a critical item or procedure that really didn't meet specs, was if you don't like the way we're doing this, tell it to Gus.
Now I had met Gus and Wally in a Bar in Cocoa Beach several months before, not really met him but was in the small crowd that had gathered around to celebrate something. I doubt if he was even conscious of us, at least by name. But I could tell that he was not someone that would stand to have his orders questioned.
Since he was the "Chief [astronaut] Engineer" for NASA, his word was law. As far as those of us on Apollo 1, Gus was NASA and as I was told when I said something about the shortcuts we were taking, I was told that Gus said it was to be done that way to save precious time that we didn't have, cause we had to fly to the moon and if I had a problem with it, I would have to go and explain it to him.
In the months before the ill fated Spacecraft arrived at Kennedy, several important meeting was held at Downy about flammable materials in the spacecraft, mainly velcro and rashel netting and the problem North American Engineers was having with a pure Oxygen Atmosphere during checkout on the ground. They had told NASA that the interior of the spacecraft under normal pressure, a pound over atmospheric created a time bomb. NASA Engineers poo pooed the ideas, saying they didn't have a problem with the pure oxygen system since they had used it on Mercury and Gemini.
They even published a flammable material procedure that would keep most of the items out of the spacecraft.
This list was totally ignored by NASA. Everyone knew that velcro was highly explosive because of the volatile adhesive used. We ran tests in crew systems lab on the material and 12" burned up in less that one second in normal air. There are other unfavorable attributes of this material that came into play during the fire. The adhesive also gave off a highly inflamable gas that adhered to the surface material.
North American Aviation had designed a quick opening hatch (one piece) that opened in three seconds. Gus said he didn't want that since there would be no need for such a hatch in space as no one was going to be going outside and since there were no fuels loaded until launch day, there was no need. I think he was worried that maybe the hatch might blow off on landing like the one on his first spacecraft.
North American even offered to furnish it free but they would have nothing to do with it.
Spacecraft 012 was a block one vehicle and should have never been flown with men aboard. It would probably work but it was the first model and had plenty of built in bugs that kept coming out of the woodwork.
During it manufacture and testing, there were over 1800 critical discrepancies written, which took time to investigate and find fixes, but NASA was adamant that the schedule would not slip so many of them fell by the wayside. Instead of waiting for the first Block II (Much superior) which was still in the pipeline, and the fact that the Astronauts wanted to fly, block one would have to do.
Tests were being performed both at Downy (CA) and KSC with out proper analysis, many were run end on end, and the results were way below specs but no one wanted to say "Hold it NASA, we need time to fix these problems", mainly because they didn't want to face Gus's wrath. It was fairly well known at Kennedy that Gus was going to be the first man to fly Apollo and he wasn't going to allow anything to get in his way.
Most of you probably think that I have it in for Gus, but to be honest, he was one of the sharpest Engineers in the Astronaut Corps. He probably knew more about the Spacecraft than any other single individual in the space program. and as for guts, he had lots of that. Anyone that will ride a small rocket in 1960 had to be either crazy or know something we didn't know.
In my book, he was a real hero. He wanted something real bad, wanting to eventually be the first to land on the moon. That was his ambition. The only problem he had was communicating with those who was building the Rocket booster and Spacecraft.
NASA was mainly at fault, putting more responsibility on him than they should have.
NASA should have created a flight safety board made up of Contractors, NASA and their consultants that would approve any change to the Spacecraft equipment and stowable items. This would have eliminated many of the nuisance discrepancies that was generated.
During the investigation, they found over 800 modifications that had not been authorized by design engineering. These changes had to come from somewhere.
Later during the investigation of the Challenger and Colombia, they found out that NASA had not learned their lesson from Apollo 1 or Apollo 13.
Now back to the story.
I was transferred to the Spacecraft Ground Crew shortly before Apollo 1 Arrived at Kennedy. It was a beautiful ship, seemed to be well put together. During the following months, we put it through its paces in the Altitude Chamber and in the checkout bay. There were a lot of small things that kept coming up, particular in the communication systems.
Some of these problems were now building up to a point that someone in NASA should have called a short breather to really find out where we stood. but we all had Moon Fever and couldn't stop.
During the days that were spent checking out the Spacecraft at Kennedy, we were constantly being stopped because of VIP's (congressman / politicians), their aides and secretaries that were allowed to get inside the spacecraft for tours. It was even better when Astronauts would come with them to pose for pictures. This also included woman friends of the Astronauts that usually showed up at night on the weekends that the Astronauts were in town. These VIP's were more important than the tests being performed.
Because of the tight schedule and the limited working space inside the craft, engineers and technicians often had disputes as to whose work was more important and priorities went by the wayside. There were several fights that had to be broken up.
Now this was detrimental to the spacecraft because it was not built for this kind of activities.
The lower equipment and floor directly under the seats was wide open with no protective covers, exposing miles and miles of wire, aluminum tubing, valves and electrical devices.
Protective covers was not needed in space so there were no provisions made.
The excuse was, "covers were not needed, and would add weight to the spacecraft". Now I'm not saying that Gus had anything to do with this decision, but it was dictated by NASA Engineering and Planners, not North American Aviation. (The block one vehicles was designed for automated radio controls, a large black box that sat on the main floor.)
NASA Spacecraft Engineers didn't realize the the booster engineers at Marshall on Saturn 1 and Saturn V launch vehicle had a fifteen percent safety factor on launch weight built into the design. This would have allowed several thousand pounds more on the spacecraft if needed.
We were being held to grams.
This indicates that yes, we needed to conserve weight, but not to the point that it would affect safety. That's why I said earlier that the Block 1 vehicles was not designed for manned space travel.
Incidentally, North American wanted to install covers on the lower equipment bay floors to protect these items but NASA (Gus) said they didn't have time to design these covers and besides it was not needed.
For ground operations, they could use a four inch thick rubber mat to protect this area. There were constant inspections to find nicked wires, loose bits of trash and materials that seemed to fall between the wires. All the workers that entered the craft had to wear special clothing and nylon bunny boots, but the VIPs only had to remove their shoes and don a shop coat.
North American had no control over these visitors.
During the investigation after the fire, NASA tried to say that a spark caused by the lower Door on the Environmental Control Unit rubbing a wire started the fire. No one asked why these wires were exposed, who decreed it and and why there was a rubber mat installed because it would have placed the blame squarely on NASA and their Engineers.
They also didn't bother to mention the traffic inside the spacecraft from VIP's.
There was only so much that North American could do under these circumstances. NASA was running the show and even if N.A.A. wanted to make the spacecraft safer, they had to fight NASA and their chief engineer.
I for one would like to see an independent Panel of experts with no axe to grind examine the evidence and issue a final ruling.
I think NASA issued a squeaky clean report that had so much massaging from the public relations group that it couldn't be believed.
They had to publish finding that took everyone off the hook so they not would look like the incompetents they were.
...there were no fire suppression systems on the Spacecraft. A system such as Halon or carbon dioxide was considered too dangerous to the crew because of the small amount of space and the fact they couldn't immediately exit the craft. Other reasons would include a revamping of the spacecraft to accomodate such a system and NASA didn't think it was needed.
There were earlier plans on putting a small extinguisher in S/C 012 but it never materialized. Some thought it would be just added weight. I saw a similar extinguisher when I worked in Crew Systms Laboratory and was told that we wouldn't be loading it. An extinguisher was added for Apollo 7 and subsequent flights.
As to what Scott [Grissom] is trying to do on his documentary, I feel he is trying to create fact from fiction. I have examined his theory and nothing jibes with what we know. I think that the men on the investigating team looked at everything they had and published what they found.
It may not be what we want to hear, as all of us have our opinions, but the theory that someone within NASA or North America sabotaged the Spacecraft to kill his dad goes beyond the stretch of imagination. There were too many individuals involved to have a clear cut plan to do something like that.
One of the questions he asked was. Who was on the spacecraft that night that wasn't there for Apollo 7? He then said, if we can find that person, we have the murder.
Now how do you answer a question like that?
I have patiently explained each of his theories, basing my answers on what was published in the investigation reports and what I think happened that night, what was found and I can find no basis for sabatoge.
As I said "It was an accident pure and simple," caused by the oversight of flight rules and procedures by both North American and NASA. Yes, there were mistakes made but in the rush to get to the moon, something called "moon fever", we plainly "screwed the pooch."
Gus demanded so much as Chief Engineer for NASA in charge of the Spacecraft, everyone was in the hurry to get things done, scared of his wrath, and launch within that time frame. No one wanted to oppose him. As I said earlier in one of post, Gus was NASA as far as we were concerned. Gus can't be blamed because he was only doing what he thought was necessary to keep the program on fast track.
Even so, most everyone respected him for his knowledge and drive and I don't think there was anyone in NASA or North America that wanted him dead, or face the possibility of ending the program.
So no, I didn't sign his petition because I don't know what it would accomplish. It certainly won't bring his dad back and will open old sores that are best left healed.
As can be seen, Mr Clemmons is not a "NASA Apologist"; he squarely lays the blame for the fire on NASA. Note, though, that he never claims that the fire was some type of deliberate act.
So: who would you believe? Someone who was there that night, or a young YouTuber who has zero qualifications in any related field?
Lastly, I asked Mr Clemmons to examine Jarrah's claims and give an opinion on their validity. His reply?
"Guys like this idiot Jarrah White are a dime-a-dozen and no matter what we say, they are not going to change their mind."