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The Apollo 11 mission to the moon was one of humanity's most incredible feats, but it almost didn't happen. It was nearly derailed by a catastrophe, and several heart-racing moments during the mission could have ended it prematurely.
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Jan - Fire - Apollo - Command - Module
On Jan. 27, 1967, a fire ignited in the Apollo 1 command module in the middle of a launch rehearsal. All three astronauts inside the module — Roger Chaffee, Ed White and Virgil "Gus" Grissom — died in the blaze.
An investigation later found that a stray spark, likely from damaged wires, started the fire. The module's pure-oxygen environment and flammable interior fed the conflagration. And the astronauts couldn't escape, because the hatch door opened inward and the pressure inside from the fire was so great that the astronauts couldn't pull the door open.
Fire - Apollo - Mission - Mission - Robert
"It [the fire] both threatened the [Apollo 11] mission and made the mission possible," said Robert Pearlman, a U.S. space historian and the founder and editor of collectSpace. "It did set back the program for a year; they didn't fly again until 1968. But it also gave NASA the opportunity to step back, rethink its priorities."
NASA redesigned the hatch and enacted other safety measures, which ensured that the Apollo 11 mission wouldn't face similar obstacles in space.
Armstrong - Human - Moon - Year - July
Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon, nearly died just over a year before the July 1969 launch. On May 6, 1968, he was piloting the lunar-landing research vehicle, an aircraft meant to simulate a moon landing. During the flight, in Houston, leaking propellant resulted in a total failure of the flight controls.
As the aircraft hurtled toward the ground, Armstrong ejected himself and parachuted down from about 30 feet (9 meters) above the ground. The lunar lander exploded in a fiery ball as it hit the ground, and Armstrong missed certain...
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