NASA Used To Throw The Best Pool Parties

Illustration for article titled NASA Used To Throw The Best Pool Parties

Back in the days when NASA was in its infancy, its engineers and pilots tried lots of new things to see what worked and what didn't. Take this June 1966 water egress practice at what looks like a country club pool near the Cape Canaveral Space Center, for example.


Pictured here, Command Pilot Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee lounge in the pool next to a mockup of the Apollo 1 Command Module in preparation for NASA's first lunar mission.

Illustration for article titled NASA Used To Throw The Best Pool Parties

Grissom, the second American in space, had already had an unfortunate aquatic experience when the hatch blew off of his Liberty Bell 7 command module after splashdown. He almost drowned and the capsule was lost at the bottom of the ocean until 1999.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck the Apollo 1 crew not long after this photo was taken. All three were killed when the command module caught fire during a pressurized launch pad electrical system test on January 27, 1967. They had complained about the craft's continuing engineering issues throughout it's development, even posing for a humorous crew photo in which they jokingly expressed doubt that Apollo Spacecraft Program Office manager Joseph Shea and his team had adequately addressed the long list of problems.

The photo contained a written message from Grissom and his crew:

It isn't that we don't trust you, Joe, but this time we've decided to go over your head.


Per the crew's request, Shea had issued an order that flammable materials be removed from the capsule's cabin, but he never actually witnessed the work being performed. The three astronauts burned to death in less than a minute, due partly to the cabin fire, and also because the inward-opening hatch couldn't be opened when the cabin was pressurized, which it was (with 100 percent oxygen) at the time of the conflagration.

So Grissom, White, and Chaffee never got to do the yellow floaty thing in open ocean. We're glad this photo remains to remind us of better times.


Photo credit: The Retroscope via Facebook; NASA

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Folks should go watch "From Earth to the Moon". Pretty good depiction of the development of Apollo.