Part 1 (F)
Preparation for Flight, the Accident, and Investigation
MSC management directed contractors and other government agencies to
stop all MSC-related manned testing in environments with high oxygen
content. The message dispatched stated: "Until further notice, each
addressee and his subcontractors is directed to cease all MSC related
manned testing in an environment containing high oxygen concentrations.
This restriction applies to all tests in chambers, enclosures,
spacecraft, space suits, and includes any other procedure which may
require any human activity within a concentrated oxygen environment.
Unmanned qualification and development tests may continue in accordance
with established plans as long as the contractor can assure that human
safety is not jeopardized.
"Waivers for test continuation due to urgent programmatic
schedules and commitments will be granted only by the Director of MSC.
Each addressee should review all test procedures and use of equipment
for unmanned testing using concentrated oxygen under pressure to assure
that the tests are necessary and will be conducted safely.
"This message is precautionary in nature. It should not be construed to
imply that any preliminary conclusions have been reached in the
investigation of the recent Apollo accident.
"Unmanned buildup and preparations should proceed as planned, so
that testing can be resumed when this restriction is lifted. . .
TWX, George M. Low, MSC, to addressees, Feb. 1, 1967.
The task of removing the launch escape system from AS-204 was delayed
until retrorockets and other ordnance devices could be removed from the
launch vehicle and spacecraft.
Apollo 204 Review Board Chairman Floyd L. Thompson appointed a committee
of two Board members and three consultants to coordinate panel
activities and to bring to the attention of the Board the actions
requiring specific approval. This Panel Coordinating Committee was
required to present daily activity reports to the Board. Thompson
announced that an executive session (Board members) would be held at 4
"Board Proceedings," p. 3-15.
Command module 014 arrived from the North American Aviation plant in
Downey, Calif., and was placed in the Pyrotechnic Installation Building
at KSC. The module was to be used for training the technicians who
would disassemble command module 012, the module in which the AS-204
fire had ignited. Before removal of any component from 012, the
technicians were to perform similar tasks on 014, to become familiar
with all actions required to remove any single component and minimize
damage during removal. As a component was removed it was transported
from the launch complex to the Pyrotechnic Installation Building. All
equipment associated with the accident would also be placed in the PIB,
including command module hardware and support equipment.
The Apollo 204 Review Board was informed that the most significant
event in the investigation to date was the removal of the launch escape
system from the command module, eliminating the greatest potential
hazard to disassembly operations. With this task finished, members of
the Fire Propagation Panel were expected to enter the command module
the following day. Removal of the launch escape system also permitted
extensive photographic coverage of the interior of the 012 command
Col. Charles F. Strang distributed copies of a status report of the
January 31 accident at Brooks AFB, Tex., for the Board's information.
NASA Deputy Administrator Robert C. Seamans attended the session.
"Board Proceedings," pp. 3-15, 3-16, 3-47.
MSC issued instructions to contractors and employees regarding release
of information on any aspect of the AS-204 accident or investigation.
The message said: "In accordance with the Apollo Failure
Contingency Plan . . . and so this work may proceed rapidly and with
complete integrity, all NASA and contractor employees are directed to
refrain from discussing technical aspects of the accident outside of
assigned working situations. This is meant to rule out accident
discussion with other employees, family friends, neighbors and the
like. All press information will be channeled through the Public
TWX, MSC to distr., "MSC Posture on Apollo 204
Investigation," Feb. 2, 1967.
NASA Deputy Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., reported to
Administrator James E. Webb on progress of the Apollo 204 Review Board
investigation of the January 27 spacecraft fire. Specific cause of the
fire had not been determined from the preliminary review. Official
death certificates for the three crew members listed cause of death as
"asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation due to the fire." Webb
released the report to Congress and the press.
Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller
announced that the unmanned flights AS-206 (on uprated Saturn I) an
AS-501 and AS-502 (first and second Saturn V launches) would proceed as
scheduled in 1967. Manned flights were postponed indefinitely.
"Board Proceedings," p. 3-47; NASA News Releases 67-21 and
67-22, Feb. 3, 1967.
In memoranda for the Apollo 204 Review Board, NASA Deputy Administrator
Seamans noted changes in the Board:
Seamans also amplified and documented the oral instructions given to the
Chairman January 28, 1967:
- Frank A. Long, President's Scientific Advisory Committee member and
Vice President for Research and Advanced Studies at Cornell University,
was no longer a member of the Board, effective February 1.
- Robert W. Van Dolah, Research Director for the Explosive Research
Center of the Bureau of Mines, Department of the Interior, was appointed
to the Board effective February 1.
- George Jeffs - Chief Engineer, Apollo, North American Aviation, Inc.
- was consultant rather than member of the Board effective February 2.
Memos, Seamans to Apollo 204 Review Board, Feb. 3, 1967.
- The Chairman was to establish procedures for the organization and
operation of the Board as he found most effective, and the procedures
were to be part of the Board's records.
- Board members were to be appointed or removed by the Deputy
Administrator after consultation with the Chairman as necessary for the
Board's effective action.
- The Chairman could establish procedures to ensure the execution of
his responsibility in his absence.
- The Chairman was to appoint or designate representatives,
consultants, experts, liaison officers, observers, or other officials as
required to support Board activities. He was to define their duties and
responsibilities as part of the Board's records.
- The Chairman was to advise the Deputy Administrator periodically on
the organization, procedures, and operations of the Board and its
- The Chairman was to ensure that the counsel to the Board maintained
memoranda records covering areas of possible litigation.
The Apollo 204 Review Board Chairman requested that a document be
written to establish procedures for entry into CM 012. Coordination of
requirements and priorities would be controlled by the Panel
Coordinating Committee, and entry into the CM by Frank Borman, MSC, or
his delegated representative.
A display showing the sequence of events immediately preceding and
following the accident was prepared from telemetry data and placed in
the Mission Briefing Room. Time span of the display was from 6:30 p.m.
to 6:33 p.m., January 27. Significant information was included on
communications, instrumentation, electrical power, environmental
control, guidance and navigation, and stabilization and control.
Borman reported that the debris removal plan approved by the Board was
progressing satisfactorily and that the next phase would use protective
plywood covers for the couches to permit detailed examination of the
command module interior.
Homer Carhart, Chief of Fuels Research, Chemistry Division, Naval
Research Laboratory, was assigned to the Fire Propagation Panel. Board
Chairman Floyd Thompson made the following appointments as
Representatives of the Board: C. H. Bolender and Charles W. Mathews,
both of NASA Hq.; Joseph F. Shea and G. Fred Kelly, MSC; Rocco Petrone,
KSC; and William D. Baxter, Air Force Eastern Test Range.
"Board Proceedings," pp. 3-16, 3-17.
Apollo 204 Review Board Chairman Floyd L. Thompson established an
Advisory Group to support the Board in its investigation. The group
consisted of representatives, consultants, liaison officers, observers,
and secretariat and would report to the Board Chairman.
Duties were defined as follows:
The following were designated to the Advisory Group by Thompson:
- Representative; represent a major element of NASA or other
government agency having programs and activities associated with the
- Consultant; serve as an adviser to the Review Board by providing
opinions, information, and recommendations, as appropriate, based on
his field of competence.
- Observer; acquire information relative to his area of expertise and
- Secretariat: provide administrative, secretarial, clerical, and
other supporting services to the Review Board.
Memo for Record, Floyd L. Thompson, "Establishment of Apollo 204
Review Board Advisory Group," Feb. 4, 1967.
- C. H. Bolender, NASA Hq., representing the Apollo Program Director;
Charles W. Mathews, Director, Apollo Applications Program, NASA Hq.;
Rocco A. Petrone, Director, Launch Operations, KSC;
Joseph F. Shea, ASPO Manager, MSC;
Lt. Col. William D. Baxter, USAF, Chief, Range Safety Office, Air Force
Eastern Test Range;
G. F. Kelly, Flight Medicine Branch, Center Medical Office, MSC.
- Frank A. Long, Vice President for Research and Advanced Studies,
John Yardley, Technical Director, Astronautics Co., Division of
George W. Jeffs, Chief Engineer, Apollo Program, North American
Aviation, Inc., or alternate R. L. Benner, Assistant Chief Engineer,
Apollo Program, North American Aviation, Inc.;
Irving Pinkel, Chief, Fluid Systems Research Division, Lewis Research
Thomas G. Horeff, Propulsion Program Manager, Engineering and Safety
Division, Aircraft Development Service, Federal Aviation Agency;
Homer Carhart, Chief, Fuels Branch, Chemistry Division, Naval Research
John S. Leak, Chief, Technical Services, Engineering Division, Bureau of
Safety, Civil Aeronautics Board.
Liaison Officer: Duncan Collins, Special Adviser, Secretary of the Air
Force, Skylab Program.
- All MSC astronauts;
John D. Hodge, MSC;
P. A. Butler, USAF;
W. Dugan, USAF;
George E. Mueller, NASA Hq.;
Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Hq.;
Kurt H. Debus, KSC;
Paul C. Donnelly, KSC;
John W. King, KSC;
H. E. McCoy, KSC;
R. E. Moser, KSC;
W. P. Murphy, KSC;
G. Merritt Preston, KSC;
J. G. Shinkle, KSC;
A. F. Siepert, KSC;
W. Williams, KSC.
- Ernest Swieda, Executive Secretary.
Maxime Faget, MSC, distributed a draft report on the use of internal and
external power on the command module for the information of the Apollo
204 Review Board.
Scott Simpkinson, MSC, Chairman of the Disassembly Activities Panel,
presented the disassembly schedule. He expected removal of the couches
from command module 012 by 5 a.m., followed by installation of the false
floor by 12 noon on February 5. The false floor had previously been
installed in command module 014 as a training exercise.
Frank Borman, MSC, was granted release of the impounded flight suits of
the backup crew, for egress testing. The Board was to observe the test
February 5. "Board Proceedings," p. 3-17.
Lt. Col. William D. Baxter, Air Force Eastern Test Range, reported to
the Apollo 204 Review Board that copies of statements by 90 witnesses
of the January 27 fire had been transcribed. George Jeffs of North
American Aviation announced that an NAA and AiResearch team had arrived
to inspect the 012 command module and to propose further action on the
environmental control unit and system.
Col. Charles F. Strang, USAF, said Board Chairman Floyd Thompson had
asked that the "Life Sciences" portion of the final report
include an analysis of the escape system, with redesign
recommendations. The system fell within the purview of the Ground
Emergency Procedures Review Panel, the In-Flight Fire Emergency
Provisions Review Panel, the Design Review Panel, and the Medical
Analysis Panel. G. Fred Kelly, MSC, was asked to coordinate
"Board Proceedings," p. 3-18.
The Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences met in executive
session to hear NASA testimony on the Apollo 204 fire. NASA Deputy
Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., said the cause of the accident had
not yet been found. Corrective actions under study included choices of
CM cabin and suit atmospheres, improved accessibility into and out of
the CM cabin, and procedures to minimize the possibility of fires and to
extinguish fires if they should occur.
Charges that the Apollo program was taking chances with lives in the
effort to beat the U.S.S.R. to the moon were "completely
unfounded; . . . before every one of our manned flights, as well as our
ground test simulations, we have taken stock to be sure that there is
nothing . . . undone or . . . done, that would in any way increase the
risk to the astronauts." The astronauts had been party to
decisions and part of the review process to make sure this was true.
Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller
emphasized that the Apollo program had been "paced at a deliberate
pace"; it was the longest research and development program the
U.S. had ever undertaken.
MSC Chief of Center Medical Programs Charles A. Berry testified that the
cabin atmosphere used in the Apollo program - 100 percent oxygen at
pressure of 3.5 newtons per square centimeter (5 pounds per square inch)
- was based on extensive research over more than 10 years. The one-gas
selection was based on tradeoffs among oxygen toxicity, hypoxia,
spacecraft leakage, weight, and system reliability. And cabins had been
purged with oxygen at some 10.3 newtons per square centimeter (15 pounds
per square inch) during the prelaunch period for all manned launches
since 1960 and all spacecraft vacuum chamber tests in Mercury, Gemini,
and Apollo programs - primarily to prevent astronauts from getting the
Three previous fires had occurred in the pure oxygen environment, but
these had been in simulators and caused by test equipment and procedures
that would not be used in spacecraft.
The three-door hatch, requiring 90 seconds to open, was used for the
first time on CM 012, which had an inner pressure hull and an outer
shell to carry the structural loads of reentry into the atmosphere on a
return from the moon. Danger of a fast-opening escape hatch's
accidentally opening in space - as the Mercury program's Liberty Bell
hatch had opened after splashdown in July 1961 - had to be considered.
Research on cabin accessibility, ongoing before the 204 accident, was
Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Apollo Accident:
Hearing, 90th Cong., 1st sess., pt. 1, Feb. 7, 1967.
Irving Pinkel, of Lewis Research Center and the Fire Propagation Panel,
presented a preliminary report to the Apollo 204 Review Board. The
report described the areas of the command module most damaged by the
January 27 fire, the most probable fire paths, and the combustible
materials in the CM. The oxygen in the CM would permit burning of only
5.4 to 6.8 kilograms of material. Solid combustibles in the CM included
plastics in the nylon, polyurethane, and silicone rubber classes. The
liquid-coolant ethylene glycol could also become a fuel if it escaped
from the closed coolant system.
The technical team from AiResearch and North American Aviation (under
NASA supervision) completed inspection of the CM 012 spacecraft
environmental control unit, preparatory to removal.
Panel 21 was formed for service module disposition. It would plan and
execute SM activities and obtain Board approval for demating the command
and service modules.
"Board Proceedings," p. 3-19.
Floyd L. Thompson, Chairman of the Apollo 204 Review Board, formally
established 21 task panels to support the investigation. He appointed a
Board member as monitor for each panel.
Duties of the panels were to:
Following are the names of the panels and the panel chairman and Board
monitors assigned to each panel.
- Perform all functions within their respective statements of work as
approved by the appropriate Board monitors.
- Submit work plans through the Panel Coordination Committee to the
Review Board for approval.
- Provide reports to the Review Board, when required, on the progress
- Work with each other under the guidance of the Panel Coordination
Apollo 204 Review Board Task Panels
Memo for Record, Floyd L. Thompson, "Establishment of Apollo 204
Review Board Panels," Feb. 7, 1967.
|Panel No.||Panel Title||Panel Chairman||Board Monitor|
|1||S/C and GSE Configuration||J. Goree, MSC||J. Williams, KSC|
|2||Test Environments||W. Hoyler, MSC||G. White, NASA Hq.|
|3||Sequence of Events||D. Arabian, MSC||M. Faget, MSC|
|4||Disassembly Activities||S. Simpkinson, MSC||F. Borman, MSC|
|5||Origin & Propagation of Fire||F. Bailey, MSC||R. Van Dolah|
|6||Historical Data||T. J. Adams, MSC||G. White, NASA Hq.|
|7||Test Procedures Review||D. Nichols, KSC||J. Williams, KSC|
|8||Materials Review||W. Bland, MSC||M. Faget, MSC|
|9||Design Reviews||R. Williams, MSC||G. White, NASA Hq.||10||Analysis of Fracture Areas||P. Glynn, MSC||B. Geer, LaRC|
|11||Medical Analysis||G. Kelly, MSC||F. Thompson, LaRC;|
G. Malley, Counsel
|12||Witness Statements||N. Vaughn, MSC||G. Strang, USAF;|
G. Malley, Counsel
|13||Ground Emergency Provisions||G. Page, KSC||F. Borman, MSC|
|14||Security of Operations||C. Buckley, KSC||C. Strang, USAF|
|15||Board Administrative Procedures||A. Griffin, KSC||B. Geer, LaRC|
|16||Special Tests||G. Stoops, MSC||M. Faget, MSC|
|17||Final Board Report||K. Hinchman, USAF||C. Strang, USAF|
|18||Integration Analysis||A. Mardel, MSC||M. Faget, MSC|
|19||Safety of Investigation Operations||J. Atkins, KSC||B. Geer, LaRC|
|20||In-flight Fire Emergency Provisions Review||J. Lovell, MSC||F. Borman, MSC|
|21||Service Module Disposition||W. Petynia, MSC||J. Williams,KSC|
MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth asked LaRC Director Floyd Thompson to
conduct a study at Langley to familiarize flight crews with CM active
docking and to explore problems in CM recontact with the LM and also LM
withdrawal. MSC would provide astronaut and pilot-engineer support for
the study. Apollo Block II missions called for CM active docking with
the LM and withdrawal of the LM from the S-IVB stage, requiring
development of optimum techniques and procedures to ensure crew safety
and to minimize propellant utilization. LM withdrawal was a critical
area because of clearances, marginal flight crew visibility, and mission
constraints. Previous simulations at LaRC indicated the possibility of
using the Rendezvous Docking Simulator.
Ltr., Gilruth to Thompson, Feb. 7, 1967.
MSC ASPO Manager Joseph Shea reviewed with George Jeffs of North
American Aviation a deficiency in the mission control programmer (MCP)
in spacecraft 017. Certain diodes - intended to prevent propagation of a
single-point failure into redundant circuitry - had been omitted from
the flight unit. The diodes appeared on MCP schematics but had been
omitted from the hardware because of problems in ground testing. A fix
appeared mandatory before flight. The MCP unit in spacecraft 020 would
be similarly modified before final integrated tests, to confirm that the
design change had not introduced other problems.
Shea requested a full explanation from North American "as to how
the schematics and/or drawings being used by the responsible design
review engineers did not reflect the as built conditions." A
report detailing the loopholes in North American procedures that
permitted such a condition and the corrective actions taken to prevent
such incidents in the future was requested no later than March 1.
Memo, Shea to distr., Feb. 8, 1967.
William W. Petynia, MSC, was given ASPO responsibility for use of the
spacecraft 012 service module in nonflight support of the Apollo program
when the Apollo 204 Review Board released the SM from - further
investigation. It was to be used in subsystem tests or tests of the
Memo, Petynia to Assistant Manager, ASPO, and Head, Apollo Support
Office, "Disposition of the SC 012 Service Module," Feb. 10,
NASA Deputy Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., and members of his
staff were briefed at KSC on aspects of the Apollo 204 investigation:
final report, fire propagation, photographic control, data integration,
and medical analysis. The group also visited the Pyrotechnic
Installation Building and other areas under the control of the Apollo
204 Review Board.
Board Chairman Floyd Thompson announced that the panel reports would be
signed by the panel chairmen only and that the Board monitors assigned
to the panels would be responsible for ensuring that minority views be
given proper consideration. In the event that serious differences were
not resolved, they were to be included in the panel reports for the
"Board Proceedings," pp. 3-20, 3-51 through 3-53.
The Board of Inquiry into the January 20 S-IVB-503 explosion at the
Douglas Sacramento Test Facility identified the probable cause as the
failure of a pressure vessel made with titanium-alloy parent-metal
fusion welded with commercially pure titanium. The combination, which
was in violation of specifications, formed a titanium hydride
intermetallic that induced embrittling in the weld nugget, thus
significantly degrading the capabilities of a weldment to withstand
sustained pressure loads. The Board recommended pressure limitations
for titanium-alloy pressure vessels.
TWX, NASA Hq. to MSC, KSC, and Grumman, Feb. 8, 1967; TWX NASA Hq. to
MSFC, MSC, KSC, "Pressure Limitation on Titanium Alloy Pressure
Vessels," Feb. 10, 1967; ltr., William Teir, MSFC, to MSC, Attn:
Joseph F. Shea, "Titanium Pressure Vessels," Feb. 10,
Apollo 204 Review Board Chairman Floyd Thompson requested the NASA
Office of Manned Space Flight, MSFC, KSC, and MSC to furnish a detailed
description of their responsibilities, organizational relationships, and
alignment in the Apollo program. Robert W. Van Dolah (Bureau of Mines),
Chairman of the Origin and Propagation of Fire Panel, was asked to
prepare a report on fire propagation by February 15 for submission to
NASA Deputy Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr.
Specially built tables had been placed in the Pyrotechnic Installation
Building to display items from CM 012 for inspection without handling.
The Board also decided to ask that special studies of the spacesuits be
made by the manufacturer and the MSC Crew Systems Division, to provide
expert opinions on possible contributing factors to the fire and
information for future spacesuit design.
"Board Proceedings," p. 3-21.
NASA Deputy Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., gave Administrator
James E. Webb a second interim report on the Apollo 204 Review Board
investigation: "At this time there has been no determination as to
the source of the ignition itself," but the fire apparently had
varied considerably in intensity and direction and might have had more
than one phase. All three crew spacesuits had been burned through,
although extent of damage varied. Spacecraft disassembly was proceeding
carefully, with detailed mapping and photography. Webb released the
report to the press February 15.
"Board Proceedings," pp. 3-51 through 3-53; NASA News Release
67-28, Feb. 15, 1967.
Selected Apollo 204 Review Board members and panel chairmen were
instructed to prepare an interim report on actions to date. The Board
was to review the report February 19 for a briefing of NASA Deputy
Administrator Seamans on February 22. Robert W. Van Dolah presented a
report on findings by the Origin and Propagation of Fire Panel, for
submission to Seamans.
Command module 012 was scheduled for removal from its launch vehicle
February 17 because of satisfactory progress in removing systems from
"Board Proceedings," p. 3-21.
The Apollo 204 Review Board received a detailed briefing on the
anomalies recorded before and during the CM 012 fire. The following
anomalies were transmitted by the command module telemetry system to
several recording stations:
The Board asked additional testing and analysis.
- communication difficulties,
- high flow rate in oxygen system,
- disruption of alternating current,
- telemetry readings from a disconnected gas chromatograph connector,
- change in the gimbal angle of the inertial measurement unit, which
might indicate movement in the command module.
"Board Proceedings," p. 3-22.
NASA Deputy Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., informed Associate
Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller that, in view of
the interim nature of schedule outlook for manned uprated Saturn I and
Saturn V missions, he had decided to show these missions as "Under
Study" in the Official NASA Flight Schedule for February 1967. As soon
as firm approved dates for the missions were available the schedule
would be updated. He said that all participants in the Apollo program
should be advised that - except for unmanned missions 206, 501, and 502
- official agency schedule commitments had not been made and certainly
could not be quoted until management assessments of the program had been
completed and schedules approved by the Office of the Administrator.
Memo, Seamans to Mueller, "Official NASA Apollo Schedules for
Manned Missions," Feb. 16, 1967.
The Apollo 204 Review Board classified the materials in and around
spacecraft 012 into three categories. Categories A and B were materials
that had significant bearing on the results of the findings or were
considered relevant to the investigation. Category C was essentially
material not involved in the event, or only affected as a consequence
of the event. Most of the Category C material would, at the time of its
designation, be released to the program office for disposition and use
within what might be termed normal program channels.
Memo, Joseph F. Shea, MSC, to distr., "Policy with respect to the
use of material released from Apollo 204 Review Board
jurisdiction," Feb. 16, 1967.
Command module 012 was separated from the service module and moved to
the Pyrotechnic Installation Building for further disassembly and
"Board Proceedings," p. 3-22.
The Apollo 204 Review Board approved a plan to remove the spacecraft 012
service module from the launch vehicle on February 21. The service
module was to be taken to the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building at
KSC for detailed examination and testing. Board Chairman Floyd Thompson
directed that a plan be developed to release Launch Complex 34 from
impoundage and to return it to KSC for normal use after the SM was
removed. Preparations were being made to remove the aft heatshield from
the command module to permit inspection of the CM floor from the lower
"Board Proceedings," p. 3-23.
Kenneth S. Kleinknecht was designated Chairman of the CSM Configuration
Control Panel in the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, MSC. He would
have authority to approve CSM changes within the limits outlined in the
ASPO Configuration Management Plan.
Memo, Manager, ASPO, to distr., "CSM Configuration Control Panel
Chairman," Feb. 20, 1967.
Apollo program officials were briefed on significant information,
tentative findings, and preliminary recommendations developed by the
Apollo 204 Review Board. Those present included George E. Mueller,
Samuel C. Phillips, C. H. Bolender, Frank A. Bogart, and Julian B.
Bowman, all of NASA Hq.; Robert R. Gilruth, George M. Low, and
Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., all of MSC; Kurt H. Debus, KSC; and Wernher
von Braun, MSFC.
Ashmun Brown, Office of Chief Counsel, KSC, was assigned to assist the
counsel to the Board.
"Board Proceedings," pp. 3-23, 3-24.
A formal briefing on progress of the Apollo 204 Review Board was
presented to NASA Deputy Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., David
Williamson of Seamans' staff, and Charles A. Berry, Joseph F. Shea,
Donald K. Slayton, and Walter M. Schirra, Jr., all of MSC.
In a general session of the Board, Chairman Floyd Thompson stated that
1,500 persons were giving direct support to the accident investigation.
This number, considered to be conservative, consisted of 600 persons
from NASA, Air Force, Navy, Department of the Interior and other
government agencies, and 900 from industry and universities.
"Board Proceedings," p. 3-24.
Apollo Program officials, headed by NASA Associate Administrator for
Manned Space Flight Mueller, briefed Deputy Administrator Seamans,
Apollo 204 Review Board members, and those present at the February 22
briefing. The presentation included a status report on the Apollo
program, on special tests being conducted and planned as a result of the
January 27 fire, and on proposed actions on the tentative Review Board
Board Chairman Floyd Thompson, LaRC; Robert Van Dolah, Bureau of Mines;
and Frank Borman, MSC, accompanied Seamans to Washington the following
day, to brief Administrator James E. Webb on the tentative findings and
preliminary recommendations of the Board (see February 25).
The spacecraft-lunar module adapter (SLA) was removed from the launch
vehicle and moved to the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building for
"Board Proceedings," pp. 3-24, 3-25, 3-55 through 3-59.
William A. Lee was redesignated from Assistant Program Manager, Apollo
Spacecraft Program Office, to Manager for the LM, ASPO, at MSC. Lee
would be responsible for the management of the lunar module program,
including MSC relations with Grumman and other supporting industrial
concerns. Lee would report to ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea and would
assist him in the following areas:
Manned Spacecraft Center Announcement, 67-34, "Manager for Lunar
Module Apollo Spacecraft Program Office," Feb. 23, 1967.
- Directing the design, development, and fabrication program
contracted by NASA with Grumman.
- Directing and planning detailed system engineering and system
integration functions for the project, including review of engineering
design work and system engineering studies by the contractor.
- Development of the program of ground and flight tests at White Sands
Missile Range, MSC, and KSC.
- Monitoring contractors' operations to ensure adherence to
specifications, to identify and solve problems which might impede the
development of systems or subsystems.
- Directing subordinate functional chiefs on all vehicle problems in
the project and resolving or securing resolution of major technical,
flight, and program problems.
- Chairing the Change Control Panel for LM.
NASA Administrator James E. Webb released a statement and Deputy
Administrator Robert C. Seamans' third interim report on the Apollo 204
Review Board investigation, including tentative findings and preliminary
Webb said the risk of fire in the 012 command module had been greater
than recognized when procedures were established for the January 27
manned test that had ended in a fatal flash fire. Successful Mercury and
Gemini flight experience with pure oxygen atmospheres and the difficulty
of keeping dropped items out of complex wiring and equipment had led to
placing Velcro pads, covers over wire bundles, and nylon netting in the
CM cabin. Although mostly of low combustion material, they were not
arranged to provide barriers to the spread of fire. Soldered joints also
had melted, and leaked oxygen and fluids had contributed to the fire.
The capsule rupture caused flames to rush over and around astronaut
couches to the break, preventing the crew from opening the hatch. And
the environmental control unit would require careful examination and
Seamans reported an electrical malfunction was the most likely source of
ignition of the fire, which apparently had three distinct phases.
Principal preliminary recommendations of the Review Board were:
The Board also suggested some subsystems and procedures could be
improved for safety. It did not recommend that cabin atmosphere for
operations in space be changed from pure oxygen at pressure of 3.5
newtons per square centimeter (5 pounds per square inch), but did
recommend that tradeoffs between one-gas and two-gas atmospheres be
reevaluated and that pressurized oxygen no longer be used in prelaunch
- Combustible material in the CM should be replaced whenever possible
by nonflammable materials, all nonmetallic materials should be arranged
to maintain fire breaks, oxygen or combustible liquid systems should be
made fire resistant, and full flammability tests should be conducted
with a mockup of each new configuration.
- A more rapidly and more easily operated CM hatch should be designed.
- On-the-pad emergency procedures should be revised to recognize the
possibility of cabin fire.
"Board Proceedings," pp. 3-55 through 3-59; NASA News Release
67-38, Feb. 25, 1967.
NASA officials testified in an open hearing of the Senate Committee on
Aeronautical and Space Sciences on the Apollo 204 fire. MSC Chief of
Center Medical Programs Charles A. Berry reported that the cause of the
three astronauts' deaths could be refined to asphyxiation from
inhalation of carbon monoxide, bringing unconsciousness in seconds and
death rapidly thereafter. The astronauts were believed to have become
unconscious 18 to 20 seconds after the fire began.
Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller said
NASA was introducing a three-pronged effort to prevent fire in the
future: it would continue to minimize the possibility of ignition but
would recognize the possibility would always exist, would seek to
eliminate the chance of propagation if a fire began, and would seek to
minimize consequences of a fire to the crew. Newly developed
nonflammable materials would be used wherever possible and would be
arranged to maintain fire breaks. Systems would be made more fire- and
heat-resistant. The new CM cabin would be verified by full boilerplate
flame tests. Design work was under way on a new unified hatch - a single
integrated hatch to replace the double hatch and permit emergency exit
in two seconds, yet remain safely sealed in flight. Emergency procedures
were being revised. Spacecraft system design and qualification were
being thoroughly reviewed. Alternative cabin atmospheres for checkout
and launch were being studied, but during flight itself pure oxygen at
3.5-newtons-per-square-centimeter (5-pounds-per-square-inch) pressure
still appeared safest for crews, with best balance among fire hazard,
system reliability, and physiological risks.
First Apollo Block II spacecraft - CSM 101, the next in line at North
American Aviation - was to incorporate all changes determined necessary
by the investigation.
Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Apollo
Accident: Hearings, 90th Cong., 1st sess., pt. 2, Feb. 27, 1967.