"We found the problems. We fixed them. And as a result, the first time we attempted to put astronauts on the moon, and get them back safely, we did. And so, from my perspective, I think that the Apollo 1 crew would be good with that."
The crew entered the command module at around 1 p.m. There was a bad smell, which put the rehearsal countdown on hold but was later found to be unrelated to the fire. There were also communication problems. “How are we going to get to the moon if we can't talk between two or three buildings?” one of the three can be heard saying in a recording from the capsule.
At 6:31 p.m., cries began: “We have a fire in the cockpit!” That's also captured on the recording, along with a scream. Those watching on a video feed saw White appear to reach for the handle of the hatch. The command module “ruptured,” according to a NASA summary, and flames and gas spilled out.
“The burst of fire, together with the sounds of rupture, caused several pad personnel to believe that the command module had exploded or was about to explode,” it states.
It took personnel about five minutes to open all the hatches into the capsule. And once they could get inside, they could barely see anything at all....