Three former space pioneers were honored during the 48th annual Apollo 1 Memorial Ceremony Jan. 27 at Launch Complex 34, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The memorial honored crew members, Command Pilot Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White II and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee, who were killed by a flash fire during a launch pad test of their Saturn 1B rocket, Jan. 27, 1967.
“Throughout our nation’s history, its greatest accomplishments have been manifested by brave men and women, willing to exert the effort necessary and overcome adversity to seize upon life-changing opportunity,” said Col. Shawn Fairhurst, 45th Space Wing vice commander. “These three Americans chose to serve our nation, first in defense of the freedoms we hold so dear and then later as our nation’s explorers. They embodied humanity’s desire to understand who we are and our place in the vast universe we call home.”
About 140 people were in attendance at the event, including Gus Grissom’s wife, brothers, son and grandson, and Roger Chafee’s daughter, Cheryl. The family members were recognized and honored for the sacrifices they made.
“You have our deepest sympathy and hope that you can find some solace in knowing that we promise to continue the legacy of Gus, Ed and Roger … To serve proudly and honorably, finding strength from your sacrifice and their memory … To continue reaching for the stars,” Col. Fairhurst said.
During the ceremony, three candles were lit, and burned through the ceremony. At exactly 6:31 p.m., the exact moment of the fire on board Apollo 1, the candles were extinguished and a bugler played Taps.
Dr. Sonny Witt, 45th Mission Support Group director of operations, said it is an honor to be part of the ceremony, which honors both the heroes and their families.
“It’s the right thing to do, and the right day to do it,” he said of the event, which is held on the anniversary of the flash fire.” It’s their ceremony, and we treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve.”
Along with Col. Fairhurst, Kelvin Manning, Kennedy Space Center director and Navy Capt. John Sager, Naval Ordnance Test Unit commander, also served as guest speakers for the event.
“Tonight, we stand here, in recognition that we are forever indebted to the sacrifices of these men and women and their families,” said Col. Fairhurst. “With nearly 3,500 launches from this small piece of Florida, the spirit to serve and explore lives on in the men and women of our nation’s military, NASA and our commercial space partners.”
Source:: Air Force Space Command