The purpose of Apollo 1 was to launch the Lunar and Command Modules (LCM) into earth orbit to make sure they would be able to support people flying to the moon. The flight was scheduled for December of 1966, but numerous design flaws forced NASA to delay the launch.
On January 27, 1967, a simulated launch was being run in the LCM. At 6:31 pm, a circuit sparked, igniting a fire. The cabin was pressurized with pure oxygen, so the fire spread quickly. Because the cabin was pressurized, the three astronauts were unable to open the hatch to get out, and all three were burned to death.
This disaster was partially a result of the race between the United States and the Soviet Union for two reasons:
- Had there not been a competition between the two countries, the US would probably have learned from the incident of Valentin Bondarenko to not pressurize the LCM with pure oxygen, and the fire would therefore not have spread as rapidly, giving the crew a chance to put it out or escape.
- A report by the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences found regarding the incident that: