Apollo 1 crew
The NASA exhibit entrance showing the Apollo 1 crew NASA

Nasa has set up a special exhibit, called "A Rough Road Leads to the Stars," in remembrance the Apollo 1 crew that was killed in a fire at the launch pad.

On January 27th, 1967, three Nasa astronauts—Roger Chaffee, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, and Ed White—died in a fire tragedy that erupted in the Apollo 1 command module during a pre-flight test. Apollo 1 was slated to be the first crewed Apollo mission, but unfortunately the craft never made it off the launchpad.

A cabin fire during a rehearsal test killed all three crew members and destroyed the Command Module. After a thorough investigation by Nasa, it was found that the ignition source of the fire was electrical, and the fire spread rapidly due to combustible nylon material, and the high pressure- pure oxygen cabin atmosphere. To top it, the astronauts' rescue was prevented by a plug door hatch, which could not be opened against the higher internal pressure of the cabin.

"The redesigned hatch, various mementos depicting the lives of the crew, and displays show how the tragedy was overcome and helped us achieve the goal of landing on the moon," says Michael Curie, news chief at the Kennedy Space Center.

Another deadly spaceflight accident occurred decades later when on January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven crew members. Around the same date on February 1, 2003 the space shuttle Columbia broke into pieces as it returned to Earth, killing another seven astronauts.

"We hope that people take away from such exhibits the message that space flight is hard, and that NASA had to learn from these tragedies in order to make spaceflight safer for future generations," Curie said. "These men are heroes, and we never want to forget them."