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  Enceladus mosaic; 45 years from Apollo 1 fireJan 28, 2012 8:29 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Thought I'd leave you for the weekend with this nifty false color orthographic projection of Saturn's moon Enceladus, constructed from a photo mosaic captured by the Cassini probe in 2008, just after it had flown within 25 km (15.6 miles) of the icy moon's cryovolcanoes:
image by NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute (source)
Enceladus is a pretty rad moon that I've discussed on a number of occasions; this post has some nifty photos and links to more, for instance.
There's an extensive Scientific American article here about the Apollo 1 cockpit fire that killed three astronauts in 1967--exactly 45 years ago (to Friday). It has a lot of details I hadn't come across before. For instance:
- The engineers monitoring the fatal test were in a "White Room" module right next to the capsule--in fact, it was the hallway through which the astronauts entered the cockpit. So they could see the flames through the window in the portal of the capsule's inward-opening door, but were powerless to open it against the cabin pressure.
- The Soviet Union had experienced a very similar accident in 1961, when cosmonaut Valentin Bondarenko, after ten days in the "Chamber of Silence"--a sensory deprivation room used to train cosmonauts for the isolation of space missions--in removing the sensors attached to his body in preparation for leaving the chamber accidentally tossed the alcohol swab he had used to remove adhesive onto the coil of his hot plate. As with the Apollo 1 capsule, the room was pressurized with highly flammable pure oxygen, and the swab catching fire on the hot plate was enough to turn the room into an inferno that inflicted what would be fatal burns all over Bondarenko's body. The door to the chamber was opened quickly, and the normal atmosphere doused the pure oxygen fire, but it would prove too late to save Bondarenko, who was whispering apologies to the doctors as they pulled him from the room. The Soviet government hushed up his death until 1986.
- The US, even if it didn't know about Bondarenko's accident, had four oxygen fires of its own in the five years leading up to the Apollo 1 fire that could have served as warnings that a pure oxygen atmosphere was highly dangerous. Two of these incidents occurred in the Air Force, one in the Navy (dive unit testing), and one in the Apollo program itself--the two Navy divers were killed. But it took the deaths of the three Apollo 1 astronauts to teach the United States not to use pure oxygen environments.
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