During a preflight test, Roger Chaffee, Virgil Grissom and Edward White perished in a fire on their mission designated as Apollo 204. Apollo 1 mission was planned to be launched on 21st February, 1967. This was expected to be the first Apollo mission for an American to visit the moon before late 70's. Nevertheless, a tragedy struck on 27th January, 1967. A fire swept up the Command Module killing all the three American astronauts. It was after this disaster that the mission officially became Apollo 1 (Lindsay, 2001). The tragedy hit the Apollo program in United States when a flash fire took place in command module 012 as Apollo pad test was being launched for the first piloted trip to the moon of the AS-204 mission. Lt. Col. Edward H. White had previously performed the first extravehicular activity in the Gemini program.
Several things led to the disaster. The fire broke out due to an electrical short and it quickly spread to the combustible materials and explosive atmospheric conditions that were inside the module. The Apollo program's poor management by NASA coupled with poor hatch design contributed to this tragedy. The electrical components within the Apollo 204 spacecraft caused the leakage along with the spillage of flammable fluid that resulted in fire. Furthermore, the Spacecraft Atmosphere had high pressure as well as oxygen concentration level easily dispersed this fire. The first stages of the fire were propelled by the levels of saturated oxygen. During these stages, the flow rate of oxygen level increased as the movement of crew led to increased to cabin leakage. The Combustible Materials caused the fire to rapidly move from the ignition point and traveled along the Command Module that had Raschel net debris traps (Karner, 2006). Given that these nets occupied most Command Module sections, they produced firebrands that ignited and scattered more flammable materials.
Moreover, the Hatch Design of the spacecraft of Apolo 1 consisted of one main exit that passed through outer and inner hatches of the Command Module. By this design of three installed hatches, the inner Command Module caused the expansion of the highly pressurized gases. This made it impossible to free the inner hatch without opening it from the cabin. Even the small size of the release valve did not allow for the release of excess pressure during fire. The crew could not evacuate gas within the benchmark time of 90 seconds because the hatch design had complicated multi-steps. Additionally, the mismanagement of NASA in safety, conduct and planning of the test was unsuccessful in identification of the hazardous situation. Deficiencies in manufacture, design, quality control, installation and rework that were present in the communication, the Environmental Control and electrical systems increased the rate of fire in this strategy. These troubles were powerfully influenced by the pressure of the government to reduce on time and cost. Deficiency in clear communication between management of NASA and their contractors contributed to occurrence of this tragedy.
Moral philosophy and duty ethics entails defending, systematizing and suggesting concepts of wrong and right behavior. Even the three astronauts demonstrated their duty ethics by setting out to the moon to gather information from it. This information would have assisted in launching the Apollo program to help future scientists that would like to land on the moon. On the other hand, the management of NASA did not perform their duty ethics well. Having not serviced the spacecraft that was to visit the moon, the hatch design became poor leading to the tragedy. Even communication became faulty making it difficult for astronauts to convey their problems back home. It was the duty of NASA's management to ensure that the spacecraft was in good condition before the astronauts set off. According to this perspective, a better system of communication should have been set up by NASA's management to assist them know what the dying astronauts were saying as they tried to escape. The Emergency personnel should have properly trained in emergency procedures so as to save the lives of these astronauts (Brubaker, 2002). These personnel ought to adequately reviewed equipment of emergency so as to facilitate disaster egress situations. Inspectors and engineers ought to have monitored and serviced the spacecraft before the journey began and ensure that everything was in place.
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Space exploration is a highly risky job field hence safety should be taken into considerations seriously. With Apollo 1 disaster being the first main disaster encountered by NASA, future disasters should be prevented. Combustible material as well as Oxygen must be controlled and restricted. This should include strictly controlling the amount and location of flammable materials that are on simulations and missions. Explosive materials that have been used must be replaced with non-combustible materials. Tests should not be carried out with atmospheric conditions having 100% oxygen. Future spacecraft testing should be done using full-scale combustible mockups. The second recommendation is that spacecraft must be planned with safety as a major consideration where all insulation and electrical wiring have to be suitable for the application. The time set aside for escaping should be decreased by having other escape routes along with a hatch that can effortlessly open under severe pressure difference. A better system of communication should be set up to enable people to know what the escaping person is saying. There should be availability of Emergency personnel who have proper training and have a good experience in emergency procedures. The equipment of emergency should be adequately reviewed so as to deal with such incidents and the launch amenities must be modified in order to facilitate disaster egress situations. Inspectors must persistently monitor the security of the entire test operations and reassure that emergency procedures will be fully in place to deal with all sorts of situations. (962)
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