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Hundreds honor 3 astronauts lost in Apollo fire 50 years ago

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Portrait of Apollo 1 astronauts (L-R) Edward H White, Virgil I Grissom And Roger Chaffee, 1967. Printed following their death in a fire during training, January 27th 1967. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Moonwalkers and dozens of others who took part in NASA’s Apollo program are paying tribute to the three astronauts killed in a fire 50 years ago.

On the eve of the Apollo 1 anniversary, hundreds gathered at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday to honor Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. They died at the launch pad, inside their burning spacecraft, on Jan. 27, 1967.

On Friday, NASA is opening an Apollo 1 exhibit featuring the hatch that prevented the three astronauts from escaping. The families of Grissom, White and Chaffee got an early look Wednesday evening.

Among the many astronauts attending Thursday’s ceremony were the two surviving crew members of Apollo 11, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, as well as Apollo 16 moonwalker Charlie Duke.

1966: Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908 - 1973), 36th President of the United States, talking to James McDivitt, the Gemini 4 astronaut and his wife during a news conference at the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Manned Spacecraft Centre. To his left are Mrs White and astronauts, Edward H White and Gus Grissom. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

1966: Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908 – 1973), 36th President of the United States, talking to James McDivitt, the Gemini 4 astronaut and his wife during a news conference at the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Manned Spacecraft Centre. To his left are Mrs White and astronauts, Edward H White and Gus Grissom. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)