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Roger B. Chaffee

Apollo astronaut

Roher Chaffee

Roger Bruce Chaffee was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on February 15, 1935. The son of a former barnstorming pilot, he got his first plane ride at the age of seven, courtesy of his father, and by the age of nine he was determined to become a pilot.

By the time Chaffee got to Central High School he was showing aptitude in electronics, mechanics, and chemistry. By his junior year he was leaning toward a career as a nuclear physicist, and as a senior he let it be known that he wanted to someday have his name written in history books. He graduated in the top fifth of his class in 1953.

A Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship took Chaffee to the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and by the end of his first academic year he had settled on aeronautical engineering. The NROTC allowed him to transfer to Purdue University in 1954, and he received his Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from that institution in June 1957. He completed his basic naval training and was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy in August.

Chaffee received his flight training in Pensacola, Florida, where he flew the T-34 Mentor and T-28 Trojan, and then in Kingsville, Texas, where he flew the F-9F Cougar. He began aircraft carrier training in November 1958, and earned his wings early the following year. He subsequently served as safety officer and quality control officer for Heavy Photographic Squadron 62 at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida, in which capacity he photographed the launch facilities at Cape Canaveral and participated in U.S. reconnaissance flights during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. In January 1963, he entered the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to work on a Master of Science Degree in Reliability Engineering.

Having achieved his first dream of becoming a pilot, Chaffee next set his sights on becoming an astronaut. He achieved that objective in October 1963, when he was chosen as one of the third group of astronauts selected by NASA; at 28 years of age, he became the youngest person ever selected by NASA at that point in time for astronaut training. In addition to participating in the overall training program. he served as a capsule communicator for the Gemini IV mission and worked on flight control, communications, instrumentation, and attitude and translation control systems in the Apollo Program.

On March 21, 1966, he was selected as one of the pilots for the AS-204 mission, the first 3-man Apollo flight. On January 27, 1967, he, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, and Edward H. White II were killed when a fire broke out in their Apollo capsule during a launch pad test at the Kennedy Space Center.

Lieutenant Commander Chaffee was survived by his wife Martha (Horn), whom he had married in 1967, and two children, Sheryl and Stephen. He is burried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Astronaut Biographies
NASA History

Cuban Missile Crisis
January 27, 1967
Virgil "Gus" Grissom
Edward H. White II

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This page was last updated on 11/02/2017.