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The Tragedy Of Apollo 1 And The Lessons That Brought Us To The Moon (forbes.com) 118

An anonymous reader writes: On January 27, 1967, the Apollo 1 crew was performing a "plugs-out" test of the Command/Service Module, an essential simulation of how the three-person capsule would perform under in-space conditions under its own power. At 6:30 PM, a voltage spike occurred, leading to a disaster. In 26 seconds, everything changed. The Apollo 1 fire and the tragic death of all three astronauts wasn't due to just a single point-of-failure, but rather due to five independent confounding factors that if any one of them had been different, the astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee might have survived. As it stands, all the crewed Apollo missions were scrapped for 20 months while NASA changed how they did business. The changes worked remarkably well, and 2.5 years later, humans walked on the Moon.
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The Tragedy Of Apollo 1 And The Lessons That Brought Us To The Moon

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  • Forbes again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2016 @05:57PM (#51384841)

    Not going to touch that link even with a mouse attached to a 50 foot pole

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I love how it keep trying to convince me to turn off my ad-blocker.

      "Hey, turn off your ad-blocker so our malvertisers can give you something special!"

      • I love how it keep trying to convince me to turn off my ad-blocker.

        "Hey, turn off your ad-blocker so our malvertisers can give you something special!"

        Really. I wasn't going to click on your ads anyway, so to save both of us some hassle and bandwidth, I am blocking them up front. You should be thanking me for lowering your cost of doing business.

      • by v1 ( 525388 )

        "please turn off your antivirus software, we promise not to give you anything too nasty!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I had no such problems with Chrome and AdBlock Plus. There was an ad page displayed with a 3 second count down to skip it and read the article without interruption. It was also decently written and had many nice photographs.

    • Re:Forbes again (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2016 @06:33PM (#51384987)

      Apparently, StartsWithABang has heard our complaints about his incessant spamming of Forbes links, and responded... by submitting stories as "anonymous reader" instead of attaching his name to his submissions. Hooray for principled stands.

    • by alexhs ( 877055 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2016 @06:42PM (#51385063) Homepage Journal

      I wonder who could be that anonymous reader ?

      The 100% oxygen environment was the perfect fuel

      Yeah, sure. I wonder what could have been the oxidant ?

      startswithabang doesn't submit any more ?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not going to touch that link even with a mouse attached to a 50 foot pole

      The article is a fluff piece. I read through it hoping that I learn about "The Lessons That Brought Us To The Moon". But what were the lessons? The article never explains any concrete changes in the way that NASA was operated, except to say that they became "Tough and Competent". I have another word to describe the article: platitudes.

    • I just discovered something interesting: For the first time I accessed a Forbes link using Chrome with AdBlock, rather than Safari with AdBlock. It did not detect that I had AdBlock on. Anyone else seeing this behavior?

      • by jeremyp ( 130771 )

        I just accessed it with Safari and ABP and it didn't complain. ABP did tell me it blocked 39 adverts, which I think is a record for me.

    • The "anonymous" submitter is very likely StartsWithABang [slashdot.org]. May I suggest "bangspam" for your tagging needs.

      • May I suggest "bangspam" for your tagging needs.

        Sounds more like the name of a pornographic film.

    • Here is the email conversation I had with IAB yesterday, so gullible! For those that listen to classic radio you will know who Dr Corey is.

      Robert,

      Thanks for the heads up.

      Tools that circumvent ad blocking are part of the suite of options we feel should be available to publishers when they're having a conversation with their site visitors about the value of their content and services. Not all publishers will want to simply bypass ad blocking - some will choose different tactics.

      We've seen a v

  • Forbes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2016 @05:57PM (#51384845) Homepage Journal

    Nuff said.

    • Re:Forbes (Score:5, Informative)

      by djbckr ( 673156 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2016 @06:40PM (#51385047)
      I did go to the link in an incognito window just to check. It is in fact StartsWithABang's blog. I guess if he thinks he removes his name from the post he'll have better luck.
      Lesson learned: If it goes to Forbes, it's likely StartsWithABang.
      • by subk ( 551165 )

        I did go to the link in an incognito window just to check. It is in fact StartsWithABang's blog.

        You had to go there to find that out? www.forbes.com/sites/StartsWithABang/ is a pretty good hint. Why click?

    • Re:Forbes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jfultz ( 1543419 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2016 @06:41PM (#51385049)
      You know, SlashDot could try to make the world a better place by drawing the line here and taking a public stand. Boycott forbes.com articles until they allow ad blockers. It's an issue of public safety, after all. The fact that Forbes had a high profile incident [slashdot.org] illustrating why ad blockers are required for safe(r) web browsing makes them all the better of a target. Even better if they boycotted all sites which block ad-blocking viewers, but Forbes can be the public face of what we stand against.
      • You know, SlashDot could try to make the world a better place by drawing the line here and taking a public stand. Boycott forbes.com articles until they allow ad blockers.

        Or just never go to Forbes ever again. I can't say I've ever been there so won't be concerned either way.

      • Even better if they boycotted all sites which block ad-blocking viewers, ...

        If you're blocking ads, you don't contribute to their revenue, but do contribute to their resource consumption. So the operators of such sites would RATHER be boycotted by people using ad-blockers.

        Sounds like a win-win. B-)

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Or at least link to a working version: http://webcache.googleusercont... [googleusercontent.com]

        The Google cache gives you what Google sees, which is much less abusive than what Forbes serves to real browsers. No "quote of the day" and Javascript seems to be disabled, and even if I disabled uBlock most of the ads failed to load because they were from non-cached third party servers.

      • by Alioth ( 221270 )

        Slashdot shouldn't be linking to the mainstream media at all. The Slashdot audience is generally made up of people not afraid of technology - make the link to a more technical indepth article. Just the Wikipedia article would be ten times better in this particular case.

        The editors should act like editors and start replacing MSM links with something more suited to the Slashdot audience. We'd rather read something deeper than the (necessarily) watered-down-for-the-layman articles.

  • by Jonah Hex ( 651948 ) <hexdotmsNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday January 27, 2016 @06:03PM (#51384879) Homepage Journal
    There are some areas of exploration that are worth the risk of life and limb, space exploration is up there on my own personal list. As in I'd risk myself in order to go into space, even something as "boring" as a return to the moon. Hell I'd even go on a one way trip to Mars, I'm sure my family and friends would be happy to see me off. (ok only a few would)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Fuck off, Ethan.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_1 [wikipedia.org]

    You and Forbes suck all the oxygen out of the room everytime Slashdot accepts a check to propagate your blogspam and Forbes' malware..

    • I thought you were jumping to conclusions but a mouseover (FFS don't click it!) confirms you're right.

      Anonymous reader my spotty botty. Has the biker-wannabe jerkwad had a momentary flash of intelligence and realised that everybody hates him and the shit he posts? Or has he had a momentary flash of conscience and actually become too embarrassed to stand behind the pissflap carpaccio that he posts?

  • THAT'S why the Soviets didn't use pure oxygen.

    • There were very good reasons to use a pure oxygen atmosphere. And some very good reasons why it was a really bad idea. NASA found that out. The hard way.

      These things happen. At least it happened on the ground where they could figure out what went wrong. If it had happened in space there would have been screams, garbled telemetry, then silence. Nobody would have ever known what happened.

      ...laura

      • There were very good reasons to use a pure oxygen atmosphere.

        Such as...?

    • They also burned someone to death in a 100% oxygen atmosphere in a ground test a few years earlier. Another first for the Soviet space program!

         

  • by Anonymous Coward

    but rather due to five independent confounding factors that if any one of them had been different, the astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee might have survived

    This reminds me of a blog post from Raymond Chen (The Old New Thing), which I can't find right now.
    He argues that most software constantly runs in some failure fallback mode.

    So when you hear "this only occurred because 5 unlikely failures happened at the same time, and there was a fallback for each", people ignore that prior to this it might have already been running with the fallbacks for, say, 3 of these failures active all the time. Thus, it isn't quite as unlikely as it sounds.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Astronauts HATE these!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't care about your ad-light experience. Deal with it. Innovate.

  • When I was a child reading about this, I stopped at "pure oxygen" ...
    I never understood how scientists can make such an obvious mistake, any child can spot on the first glance.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Saving weight?
      The US could have found out more via a quality control and safety inspector for North American Aviation (NAA) Thomas Baron. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      Re "I never understood how scientists can make such an obvious mistake, any child can spot on the first glance."
      The US was packed with scientists and other staff from Nazi projects WW2 who had their own thoughts about the risks of mistakes and human life.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      The Dora Trial allowed many to escape to the
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2016 @07:06PM (#51385213)

    Apollo 1 [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I know a retired NASA engineer who was in the control room that day.

    35 years later, when I met him and heard the story, he was still moved to tears by the tragedy of that day.

  • What about Apollo 13 and two shuttles?

    Look, NASA is (or was in the past) engaged in a dangerous business called manned space flight, where you can die in horrible ways from a nearly endless list of causes, but it has a history of great success punctuated by some breathtakingly stupid failures. It seems NASA has to keep learning the lessons of Apollo 1, Apollo 13, Challenger and Columbia. There will be more, they will be caused by stupid mistakes made by people who should know better. I'm not so sure N

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Part of the problem is that if you halt the process due to a potential problem, you are almost sure to look bad because the project is delayed. It's a sure-shot "hit" to your record. Nobody wants to look bad.

      And they are weighing that against the risk of a catastrophic failure, which although makes one look VERY bad, is often judged to be relatively remote.

      To move up in rank you almost have to have an aggressive personality, and aggressiveness may involve "gittur done" risk taking. Thus, the promotion proce

      • This problem of offensive risk taking in the face of informed opposition is what we'll be seeing much more of with Trump.
      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        you are almost sure to look bad because the project is delayed

        Which is why you want such a project run by somebody confident enough that they do not care if they look bad.

        • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

          And how does an organization determine that?

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            Track record. An extreme is Feynman not caring that the NASA enquiry he was part of was supposed to be a whitewash and bringing out the evidence that the engineers were unable to get beyond their immediate management, because their managers were afraid it would make NASA look bad.

            In most cases however it's about having someone that has run difficult things that take some time to succeed instead of a seagull manager that flies from place to place taking credit - it's about not being afraid of setbacks and
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Its also the sheltered workshop, boondoggle funding, contractors feeding the congresscritters.
      Everyone was winning, jobs in the state, votes, cash flowed to states with huge generational production lines, cash flowed back up to the political leadership who ensured the projects got funded.
      Thats a lot of gov, mil, political and private sector power to stand up to and hope for "government" level whistleblower protection if in a contractor role.
  • Challenger

  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2016 @08:56PM (#51385677)

    Forbes' bullshit website went in my hosts file when Slashdot started steering posts there. It's basically killed half of the posted content on Slashdot.

    Way to step on your own dick Slashdot! If you actually worried about your viewership you wouldn't steer us to that crap.

  • by p51d007 ( 656414 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2016 @10:03PM (#51385907)
    I was a 7 year old who was in love with the space program. Watched every launch from John Glenn through the shuttle. The weird thing about that whole mess, and the ironic nature was what happened to Grissom's Mercury flight. Up until the Apollo missions, the hatch opened OUTWARD. On Mercury, there was a button that the user would punch with his fist, that would activate explosive bolts to blow the hatch. Grissom's flight splashed down, and the hatch "just blew". Speculation was that Grissom wiggled around, got scared or something an hit the button, causing the capsule to take on water & sink. After that, they figured it would be better to have an INWARD opening hatch. Also, to simulate the take off, the "plugs out" test, the cabin pressure was tanked up to around 22psi of PURE O2. The used pure O2 back then, because they were worried about them getting the bends & they didn't want the added weight of a nitrogen tank. Also, since everything floats, they had YARDS of Velcro all over the place. I remember watching a test. Normal air, pressurized and igniting velcro. Nothing happened. Then the pure O2 pressurized, and the spark caused the whole thing to catch fire. Pure pressurized O2, LOVE flames along with the flammable Velcro. With the dual hatch design, the inner hatch pressurized outward, once the fire started, the hatch sealed tighter & tighter, making it impossible to open, until the safety valves popped open. By that time, they had been overcome by smoke, lack of breathable air, and had been asphyxiated. I remember the days after, and the funerals. Sad... A few years ago, they found the Mercury capsule of Grissom's, and took it to the Kansas Cosmodrome in Hutchison, Ks. After cleaning it up, they found out that the hatch "just blew" as Grissom had claimed all along. The switch was still in the off mode (it was a one way switch). Also, every Mercury astronaut had a distinctive red spot/bruise on their wrist, where they smacked that button (it required a LOT of force). Grissom had NONE. Had that hatch not "just blew", who knows...that fire might have allowed them to blow the hatch and escape. One positive outcome was it changed the mindset at NASA. They had "go fever" and finally put on the brakes, took a look at what they were doing and had a change of attitude. Gene Kranz, after the fire wrote two words on a blackboard, to NEVER be erased..."tough & competent". He & Kris Craft redid how mission control was run, and they never had an issue. Even when Apollo 12 was hit by lightning, or when the Apollo 13 explosion happened, they did what he always dictated, WORK THE PROBLEM. A lot of good came out of that tragedy
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The worst part is that the Russians had a very similar accident years earlier. Pure O2 atmosphere and a single spark. They too learned from their mistake, but didn't publicly mention what had happened so NASA was unable to benefit from that costly lesson.

      Kennedy actually had quite a good relationship with his Russian counterpart, and they were talking about collaborating on the moon shot. If he had not been assassinated not only might the Apollo 1 disaster have been averted, but the whole Apollo programme m

    • wrote two words on a blackboard, to NEVER be erased..."tough & competent".

      I suppose that reads better than "do your fucking job; don't cut corners." Although it doesn't really convey the same amount of information...

      Patriotism & Righteousness!

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Thursday January 28, 2016 @02:41AM (#51386681) Journal

    The Appollo I martyrs are heroes in more ways than one.

    One of NASA's responses to the fire was to design a detector for miniscule amounts of smoke particles, to provide an early warning of electrical problems that might lead to a fire - in time to evacuate the capsule if on the ground or hunt down and fix the problem if in space.

    The detector used a miniscule amount of radioactive material to ionize the smoke particles and then detected the current conducted by the ions. (Radioactive materials were for NASA, a government agency, to design with, difficult for random inventors or corporations to even consider.)

    The first, space-rated, low-volume prototypes were pricey. But the circuitry and the detection chamber were dog-simple and could be dirt-cheap when manufactured in volume.

    So this was plowshared, and became the ionization-type smoke detector, the first practical, affordable, smoke detector suitable for broad deployment in residences. Even when this was the only type in use, it was quickly saving, first hundreds, then thousands of lives per year.

    Modern detectors, combining ionization and photoelectric mechanisms, are credited with cutting the death toll from fires by somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2. They detect different types of fires, and the one detected by ionization accounts for somewhat less than half of them - which is still an enormous number.

    So the loss of those three lives has been repaid with enormous interest in the decades that followed. The benefits are still flowing.

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday January 28, 2016 @08:40AM (#51387349)

    It seems that maybe someone at Slashdot has heard our complaints. Unlikely though. It would appear StartsWithABang is now advertising his shitblog anonymously rather than logging in.

    I assume someone at DiceDot thought we wouldn't notice.

    The real question is: With so many intelligent analyses of what went wrong with Apollo 1, why would anyone want to get information from some shitty advert infested for-profit blog that is spammed around sites who don't really care for the writer's shit?

  • http://arstechnica.com/science... [arstechnica.com]

    Adblock and Incognito friendly.

  • Thanks to Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia, and all the other astro- and cosmonauts whose sacrifices are to help get us out of the cradle.
  • I knew someone down on Merrit Island a few years ago. He had *worked* as a tech on the Cape during the Moon Race. Or, well, he did, until Apollo 1. The astronauts were coming for the tests, and he argued with... I think it was Grissom, he told me, and that he told them it wasn't safe, and they wanted to do some more work on the capsule, and Grissom went all macho on him... and he punched Grissom.

    My acquaintance was asked to resign.... Now, if they'd listened to the freakin' techs....

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