John F. Kennedy's dream of putting a man on the moon, a reality.
Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts during a routine test on the launchpad. The accident shocked NASA as the agency was rushing to meet President Kennedy's 1961 challenge to have men on the moon by the end of the decade.
The test was a dress rehearsal for the Apollo 1 crew — Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. The ultimate goal was to check out the command module, NASA's first three-man spacecraft that would take astronauts to the moon.
The crew was rehearsing the real launch, which was about a month away. They were suited up and in the capsule running through checklists and testing equipment.
But something sparked in the oxygen-rich environment. Within seconds, the capsule filled with flames, smoke and toxic gases...
Only 21 months later, NASA sent humans back into space aboard Apollo 7. And less than a year after that, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed Apollo 11 on the moon.
FiftyAstronaut Michael Collins was also on that mission. He says if the fire on Apollo 1 hadn't happened, it's likely a similar accident would have occurred in space — and that could have led to the program's cancellation.
"Without it, very likely, we would have not landed on the moon as the president had wished by the end of the decade," Collins says.