A walkway to a mock up of an Apollo capsule:
The space mirror memorial at Kennedy Space Center:
A plaque opposite the mirror:
You sort of have to put that out of your mind. There's always a possibility that you can have a catastrophic failure, of course; this can happen on any flight; it can happen on the last one as well as the first one. So, you just plan as best you can to take care of all these eventualities, and you get a well-trained crew and you go fly.
— Gus Grissom
This would have been the first flight of the Block I Apollo Command Module. Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee were scheduled for 14 days in orbit to test launch, ground tracking, and control facilities.
The crew members were using the time to run through their checklist again, when a voltage transient was recorded at 6:30:54 (23:30:54 GMT). Ten seconds later (at 6:31:04), after Chaffee said the word "Hey", scuffling sounds followed for three seconds before Grissom reported a fire that began that minute. Chaffee then reported, "We've got a fire in the cockpit," while White responded to Chaffee's comment. After 12 seconds, Chaffee urged the crew to get out of the command module. Some witnesses said they saw White on the television monitors, reaching for the inner hatch release handle as flames in the cabin spread from left to right and licked the window. The final voice transmission from the crew was very garbled. "They’re fighting a bad fire—let’s get out. Open ‘er up" or, "We’ve got a bad fire—let’s get out. We’re burning up" or, "I’m reporting a bad fire. I’m getting out." Only 17 seconds after the first indication by crew of any fire, the transmission ended abruptly at 6:31:21 with a cry of pain and then a hiss as the cabin ruptured after rapidly expanding gases from the fire over-pressurized the CM to 29 psi (200 kPa) and burst the cabin interior.