Roger B. Chaffee
|Roger B. Chaffee|
|Status||Killed during training|
February 15, 1935|
Grand Rapids, Michigan
|Died||January 27, 1967
Cape Kennedy, Florida
|Other names||Roger Bruce Chaffee|
|Other occupation||Test pilot|
|Rank||Lieutenant commander, USN|
|Selection||1963 NASA Group|
Roger Bruce Chaffee (February 15, 1935 – January 27, 1967), (Lt Cmdr, USN), was a Naval Aviator, aeronautical engineer and a NASA astronaut in the Apollo program. Chaffee died along with fellow astronauts Gus Grissom and Ed White during a pre-launch test for the Apollo 1 mission at the then-Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Florida, in 1967. Chaffee was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Navy Air Medal.
Roger Bruce Chaffee was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he became an Eagle Scout and graduated from Central High School. Turning down a possible appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, Chaffee accepted a Naval ROTC scholarship and in September 1953 enrolled at the Illinois Institute of Technology. After transferring to Purdue University in the fall of 1954, Chaffee earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1957. While there, he was a member of the Phi Kappa Sigma social fraternity, and the Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Gamma Tau engineering honor societies. While at Purdue, Chaffee took flight training as part of the Naval ROTC program in order to prepare him for a career as a Naval Aviator, soloing on 29 March 1957 and obtained his private pilot's license on 24 May 1957.
Chaffee married Martha Horn in Oklahoma City on August 24, 1957, whom he met while on a blind date in September 1955, and had two children, Sheryl Lyn (born November 17, 1958) and Stephen (born July 3, 1961).
Following graduation, Chaffee completed his Navy training on August 22, 1957 and was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. He would ultimately rise to the rank of lieutenant commander. After attending flight school at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida and Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, Chaffee was awarded his aviator wings in early 1959. Chaffee was given a variety of assignments and participated in numerous training duties over the next few years, spending the majority of his time in photo reconnaissance squadrons. He was stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, serving as safety officer and quality control officer for Heavy Photographic Squadron 62 (VAP-62) flying the A3D-2P (later RA-3B) Skywarrior.
In the book Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon, it is claimed that he flew the U-2 spy plane, a U.S. Air Force aircraft which took the pictures of Soviet missiles in Cuba which President Kennedy used on television on October 22, 1962. However, during this time Chaffee actually flew the U.S. Navy A3D-2P/RA-3B (a reconnaissance version of the carrier-based Douglas Skywarrior heavy attack/nuclear strike bomber). He was officially recognized for his service during the Cuban Missile Crisis with VAP-62, but his exact role is unclear and the Skywarrior was never employed in any overflights of Cuban territory during the crisis.
In mid-1962, Chaffee was accepted in the initial pool of 1,800 applicants for the third group of NASA astronauts. In January 1963, he entered the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio to work on a master of science degree in reliability engineering. While at AFIT, Chafee would continue to participate in astronaut candidate testing as the pool of candidates dropped to 271 in mid-1963.
Chaffee was an avid hunter. After completing the astronaut application process, he went hunting to calm his nerves. It was while he was on that hunting trip that NASA called him to offer him an astronaut slot. On October 18, 1963 he was officially announced as one of 14 chosen for Astronaut Group 3.
He served as a capsule communicator, along with Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Eugene Cernan, for the Gemini 4 mission, in which Edward H. White II made his space walk. Chaffee later served as one of the pallbearers for fellow astronaut Elliot See, who was killed in a plane crash while training for the Gemini 9 mission.
He never got a seat on a Gemini mission, but was tasked with working on flight control, communications, instrumentation, and attitude and translation control systems in the Apollo program. He was paired with Grissom to fly chase planes to photograph the launch of an unmanned Saturn 1B rocket. On 21 March 1966, he received his first spaceflight assignment as Pilot for the first manned Apollo flight, AS-204, along with Command Pilot Grissom and Senior Pilot White. In June, the men got permission to name their flight Apollo 1.
On January 27, 1967, Grissom, White and Chaffee were participating in a "plugs-out" countdown demonstration test at Cape Kennedy in preparation for the planned February 21 launch, when a fire broke out in the cabin, killing all three men. Chaffee's is believed by some to be the first cockpit voice to report the fire to ground controllers. During the seventeen seconds that the fire raged, fed by pure oxygen at slightly greater than atmospheric pressure, Chaffee stayed strapped to his right-hand seat, as it was his job to maintain communications in an emergency, while White in the center seat apparently tried in vain to open the hatch. At that point, the increasing pressure burst the inner cabin wall. Now fed by ambient air, the fire decreased in intensity and eventually put itself out, but produced large amounts of smoke, which killed the astronauts.
- The crater Chaffee on the far side of the Moon.
- Chaffee Hill, 14.3 km (8.9 mi) south-southwest of Columbia Memorial Station on Mars, part of the Apollo 1 Hills.
- The star Gamma Velorum was nicknamed "Regor" ("Roger" spelled backwards).
- Chaffee Hall, an engineering building at Purdue University, his alma mater.
- Roger B. Chaffee Elementary in Huntsville, Alabama. Huntsville, also known as "Rocket City" because it is a major center for space technology and rocket development, simultaneously named Ed White Middle School and Virgil I. Grissom High School for his Apollo 1 crewmates.
- Chaffee Trail Elementary located off of Chaffee Road in Jacksonville, Florida, opened in July 2007.
- The U.S. Navy high school at Naval Air Station Bermuda was named for him from 1970 to 1995. The school was closed with the hand-over of the base to the Bermudian government and is now named Clearwater Middle School.
- Island Chaffee, an artificial island in San Pedro Bay off Southern California.
- Chaffee is remembered in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, with the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, the Roger B. Chaffee Memorial Boulevard in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming (at the location of the old Kent County Airport), and the Roger B. Chaffee Scholarship, awarded annually to exceptional students in math and science in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area.
- The Roger B. Chaffee Lodge at Gerber Scout Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan. There is a plaque in the dining area dedicating the lodge to him and his service in the Boy Scouts of America and his sacrifice for the American space program.
- Roger B. Chaffee Park in Fullerton, California. Fullerton has also named parks in honor of Grissom and White.
- The dismantled Launch Pad 34 at Cape Canaveral bears two memorial plaques: One says, They gave their lives in service to their country in the ongoing exploration of humankind's final frontier. Remember them not for how they died but for those ideals for which they lived. and the other, In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so others could reach for the stars. Ad astra per aspera, (a rough road leads to the stars). God speed to the crew of Apollo 1.
- Roger Chaffee Street in El Paso, Texas.
- Roger Chaffee Drive in Amherst, New York.
- Roger Chaffee Square in Bear, Delaware.
- Roger B Chaffee Memorial Drive in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- Navy Air Medal (posthumous)
- Congressional Space Medal of Honor, 1997 (posthumous)
- NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award for involvement in the U.S. space program, 2007 (posthumous).
- NASA Exceptional Service Medal
Film and television
- "ROGER B. CHAFFEE". Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. 1997. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
- Mary C. White. "Detailed Biographies of Apollo I Crew - Roger Chaffee". NASA website. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Roger B. Chaffee Elementary, Huntsville (Ala.) City Schools official site
- Jaques, Bob (June 6, 2002). "First spacewalk by American astronaut 37 years ago" (PDF). Marshall Star (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center). p. 5.
- "Press Release". Duvall County Public Schools.
- Fallen Astronaut
- pdf of City of Long Beach Economic Zones
- "List of Parks". City of Fullerton.
- Smith, Yvette (2007-10-04). "NASA Honors Roger Chaffee With Exploration Award". NASA website.
- Astronaut Roger B. Chaffee - I Knew Him
- NASA biography
- Lyndon Johnson Condolence letter to Chaffee Family Shapell Manuscript Foundation
- Astronaut memorial fund website
- Spacefacts biography of Roger B. Chaffee
- Location of Roger B. Chaffee Memorial Drive in Grand Rapids
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