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Chaffee, Roger B., 1935-1967



  • Existence: February 15, 1935 - January 27, 1967

Biographical Information

Roger B. Chaffee was born February 15, 1935 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Chaffee graduated from Central High School, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering, Purdue University in 1957. While at Purdue University, he was a member of Tau Beta Pi, National Engineering Society, Sigma Gamma Tau, and Phi Kappa Sigma.

Chaffee entered the Navy in 1957 as a United States Navy Lieutenant Commander. He served as safety officer and quality control officer for Heavy Photographic Squadron 62 at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. 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. He logged more than 2,300 hours flying time, which included more than 2,000 hours in jet aircraft. Chaffee was awarded the United States Navy Air Medal.

Chaffee was one of the third groups of astronauts selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in October 1963. In addition to participating in the overall training program, he was also tasked with working on flight control communications systems, instrumentation systems, and attitude and translation control systems in the Apollo Branch of the Astronaut office. On March 21, 1966, he was selected as one of the pilots for the AS-204 mission, the first 3-man Apollo flight.

Lieutenant Commander Chaffee died on January 27, 1967, in the Apollo spacecraft flash fire during a launch pad test at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

He was quoted in the New York Times, "You’ll be flying along some nights with a full moon. You’re up at 45,000 feet. Up there you can see like you can't see it down here. It’s just the big, bright, clear moon. You look up there and just say to yourself: I’ve got to get up there. I’ve got to get up there. I’ve just got to get one of those flights."


Roger Chaffee Biographical Data. NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Accessed March 6, 2019.


White, Mary C. Detailed Biographies of Apollo I Crew - Roger Chaffee. NASA. Accessed March 26, 2014.


Crew of Apollo Accepted Risks; 3 Men Believed Space Flight Was Worth Facing Perils. The New York Times, January 29, 1967, p. 48.

Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:

Barbara Marie Stephens Sullivan Cape Canaveral and Eau Gallie, Florida photographs and memorabilia

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 202
Abstract This collection includes photographs, NASA brochures and public relations publications, newspapers, and a NASA collectable poster related to the activities at Cape Canaveral in the late 1950s through early 1960s, and material related to the US Space Program activities at the Cape during the mid-1960s through the1980s. Includes a View Master and two packets of View Master reels on the United States Space Program and Cape Kennedy. Also includes materials related to the nearby community of Eau...

George M. Palmer papers

 Collection — Box: Box 1
Identifier: MSF 482
Abstract Student course assignment results for AE 420, titled "Extrapolation 59," completed by K.E. Beyer, R. B. Chaffee, W. B. Fouts, and W. D. Harvey, May 23, 1957.

Purdue University Astronauts collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 168
Abstract This legacy collection features items related to Purdue University’s alumni astronauts. The various items were collected before the advent of the Barron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives. Included are clippings, Purdue University News Service press releases relating to Apollo 11 and Neil A. Armstrong and various Apollo 11 related newspapers and clippings. Also included are Purdue publications and shuttle mission decals, patches and a replica of a mechanical toy that was involved in a...

Roger B. Chaffee letter and postcard

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSA 282
Abstract Roger Chaffee personally signed letter with letter from Martha Chaffee on reverse, and postcard from Iceland

Roger Chaffee papers

 Unprocessed — Box: 1 folder in box
Identifier: 20150213