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Fifty years later, NASA opened an exhibit to commemorate America's first space tragedy

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On Jan. 27, 1967, a fire blazed through the cockpit of Apollo 1, killing Roger Chaffee, Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Ed White II at Cape Kennedy's Launch Complex 34 in Florida. Fifty years later to the day, NASA opened an exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Complex on Friday to memorialize the three pilots who perished, and the countless launch pad workers who risked their lives to save the astronauts, the Associated Press reported.

The exhibit's main draw is the hatch from the burned spacecraft, which, along with the capsule, has been concealed since the incident. And to remind viewers of the astronauts' contribution to space travel, the exhibit also includes the redesigned hatch that would later carry men to the moon.

But before men successfully made it to the moon, there would be more space tragedies. After Apollo 1, considered America's first space disaster, came the 1986 Challenger and 2003 Columbia shuttle accidents, claiming the lives of 14 people.

While joining others at the opening of the exhibit, Kennedy's associate director Kelvin Manning spoke of the astronauts' unwavering patriotic duty.

"We want to honor the crew," he said. "We also want people to pause ... we want to understand the risks so we can ensure our astronauts' safety."

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