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Roger B. Chaffee

          Roger Bruce Chaffee (February 15, 1935-January 27, 1967) was an officer in the United States Navy.  He was an aviator, test pilot, aeronautical engineer, and astronaut in the NASA Apollo Program.  Chaffee died along with fellow astronauts Gus Grissom and Ed White during a pre-launch test for the Apollo I mission at then-Cape Kennedy Air force Station, Florida.  Chaffee was posthumously awarded the Space Congressional Medal of Honor and the Navy Air Medal

Early Life:

Roger Chaffee was born on February 15, 1935 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He attained the rank of Eagle Scout and graduated from Grand Rapids Central High School in 1953. He turned down an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and accepted instead an ROTC scholarship to Illinois Institute of Technology. He later transferred to Purdue University and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering.  While at Purdue, Chaffee took flight lessons as part of his ROTC training.

Navy Service:

After graduation from Purdue, Chaffee was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy. During the next few years He served in various missions, mostly in photo-reconnaissance squadrons. He was recognized officially for his actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, but his specific role was never publicized.  In 1962 he was accepted into a pool of 1800 applicants for astronaut training.  On October 18, 1963, Roger Chaffee was appointed to Astronaut Group 3.  One of only 14 selected from the 1800 original candidates!

NASA career:

Chaffee served as ground control capsule communicator on the Gemini 4 mission.  He also was tasked with technical/support duties for the upcoming Apollo program.  On 21 March 1966 He received his first astronaut flight assignment as Pilot of the first Apollo mission, Mission AS-204, also known as Apollo I

Death:

On 27 January 1967 a fire broke out in the Apollo capsule during a training session. Chaffee, Ed White, and Gus Grissom were trapped in the inferno.  The fire lasted only 17 seconds, but the oxygen rich air in the capsule had increased its intensity.  The cause of death of the three astronauts was ruled to be smoke inhalation.  Roger B. Chaffee was 31 years old.   He is buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery


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