Webb, James Edwin (1906–1992)
On January 27, 1967, Apollo-Saturn (AS) 204, was on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, moving through simulation tests when a flash fire killed the three astronauts aboard – "Gus" Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee. Webb told the media, "We've always known that something like this was going to happen soon or later... who would have thought that the first tragedy would be on the ground?" As the nation mourned, Webb went to President Johnson and asked that NASA be allowed to handle the accident investigation and direct the recovery. He promised to be truthful in assessing blame and pledged to assign it to himself and NASA management as appropriate. The agency set out to discover the details of the tragedy, correct problems, and get back on schedule. Webb reported these findings to various Congressional committees and took a personal grilling at nearly every meeting. While he was personally tarred with the disaster, the space agency's image and popular support was largely undamaged. He left NASA in October 1968, just as Apollo was nearing a successful completion. Subsequently he served on several advisory boards, including as a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution.
Related category AEROSPACE ADMINISTRATORS
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