Before the Fire

Veteran space reporter Jay Barbree recalls Apollo's darkest day.

Jay Barbree (left)and Gus Grissom around the time of the astronaut's Gemini 3 flight in 1965. (Courtesy Jay Barbree)

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The medical readings showed Ed White’s pulse rate jumped off the charts – showed the three astronauts burst into instant movement.

The first call from Apollo 1 smashed into the launch team’s headsets.


One word from Ed White.

Then, the unmistakable deep voice of Gus Grissom.

“I’ve got a fire in the cockpit!”

Instantly afterward, Roger Chaffee’s voice:


Then a garbled transmission, and then the final plea:

“Get us out!”

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