Encyclopedia Astronautica
1968.03.14 - 40-percent-nitrogen in the Apollo spacecraft cabin on the launch pad


NASA announced to the public that program officials had decided to use a 60-percent-oxygen and 40-percent-nitrogen atmosphere in the Apollo spacecraft cabin while on the launch pad (and to retain the pure-oxygen environment in space).

This technical decision - because of the earlier tragedy with Apollo 204 over a year earlier - was subjected to closer public scrutiny than perhaps any comparable decision in the history of the U.S. space program. The change affected only ground operations and support equipment and did not necessitate any major changes in the spacecraft itself. Exhaustive testing of the redesigned interior of the vehicle since October 1967 had demonstrated that the risk of fire inside the spacecraft had been drastically reduced. Hardware changes inside the cabin, spokesmen said, had minimized possible sources of ignition and materials changes had vastly reduced the danger of fire propagation.

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