Did Politics Doom Apollo 1?

We live in an age where politics seems to pervade every aspect of our daily lives, touching everything from sports and entertainment to items as seemingly non-political as soft drinks and children’s cartoons. Apparently, nothing is off-limits. Yet if there was one entity that might be free of the taint of politics then perhaps NASA would be it. But sadly, that is not the case. 

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June 3, 1965: Ed White’s Spacewalk

On this day in 1965, 56 years ago, astronaut Ed White, on board Gemini 4, stepped outside his spacecraft to perform the first American EVA. Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov stunned the world the previous March by becoming the first man to walk in space. America had to answer.

An excerpt from Apollo 1: The Tragedy That Put Us On the Moon:

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Honoring the White Family

In my latest book, Apollo 1: The Tragedy That Put Us On the Moon, I honor the three fallen astronauts, one of whom was Edward Higgins White II. Ed was a 1952 graduate of the US Military Academy, at a time when prospective Air Force flyers attended West Point. The Air Force Academy did not yet exist until 1954. Ed served in the Air Force until he became an astronaut in 1962. In 1965, he was the first American to walk in space.

Service in America’s military forces was not limited to Ed; the tradition ran strong in the White family.

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“It Must Not Be Again!”

On May 23, 1921, President Warren G. Harding stood on the docks in Hoboken, New Jersey and watched as 5212 wooden caskets containing the remains of American servicemen who died in World War I in France arrived for burial. In his brief remarks, Harding tearfully promised, “I find a hundred thousand sorrows touching my heart, and there is a ringing in my ears, like an admonition eternal, an insistent call, ‘It must not be again! It must not be again!’ God grant that it will not be, and let a practical people join in cooperation with God to the end that it shall not be.”

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May 25, 1961 and the Road to Apollo 1

Sixty years ago, a confident, yet beleaguered president, John F. Kennedy, strode into the House of Representatives to address Congress on what he called “Urgent National Needs.” JFK had delivered his first State of the Union address on January 30, but now he felt the American public needed to hear from him again.

The previous month, Kennedy had been humiliated with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and now he sought to inject some life back into the American consciousness, to get the focus of his administration back on track, and that was aggressively confronting the Soviet Union and winning the Cold War. And one vehicle to do that, he believed, was the budding space race.

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Why I Wrote Apollo 1

As long as I can remember I have had an avid interest in the space program. I suppose a lot of young kids do. Many of us dream of riding a rocket into space or walking on the moon. Yet very few will ever have the opportunity. Something will always throw us off the path. Not that I was super serious about being an astronaut, but what did me in was mathematics, and very early in life at that. I first met math in the first grade in 1979 and we had a very violent collision that year, then a tense relationship ensued over the next dozen years or so until I finally slid by college algebra, and we haven’t spoken since. 

Science, mathematics, and engineering were never my subjects of choice, which meant I wasn’t flying anywhere, but history was, so it was the history of NASA and the race for the moon that excited me the most. But the thrills of the space program have always fascinated me.

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