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National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, photograph, May 9, 1967

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials who testified before Congress included, left to right, Dr. Robert Seamans, James Webb, Dr. George Mueller, and Major General Samuel Phillips. In February 1967 Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota, acting on a reporter’s tip, inquired about a report Phillips had issued in 1965. NASA initially denied its existence but eventually shared it with congressional investigators.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, photograph, May 9, 1967

Apollo 204 and the Phillips Report

America’s manned lunar spaceflight program suffered a tragedy on January 27, 1967, when the Apollo-Saturn 204 (later named Apollo 1) command module burst into flames during a pre-launch test, killing its crew. While the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) internally reviewed the fatal accident, both houses of Congress launched independent investigations. A Senate hearing uncovered a 1965 report by Apollo Program Director Major General Samuel Phillips that revealed problems NASA had not previously disclosed. The discovery of the Phillips Report led to more stringent congressional oversight of NASA.

I think the key question is whether we are going to be limited to information which NASA wants us to have or whether we will be provided with the critical information such as the Phillips report

Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota, Apollo Accident, May 9, 1967