The Command Module was the control center for the Apollo spacecraft and provided the living and working quarters for the three-man crew for the entire lunar flight, except for the period when two crewmen were traveling int he Lunar Module between lunar orbit and the lunar surface. The Command Module consisted of the inner crew compartment (pressure vessel), surrounded by a stainless steel honeycomb and an outer heat shied thickest on the rear, made of heat-dissipating material that burned away during the 25,000 MPH re-entry int the earth’s atmosphere. Astronauts entered the docked Lunar Module through the hatch in the nose, while the hatch on the side provided entry and exit to the Command Module. Parachutes for landing were stored in the Command Module’s noes for deployment following re-entry. The parachutes seen here were flown to the Moon and back on Apollo 15. The command Module was the only part of the 364-foot tall Saturn rocket that returned to Earth.
On January 20, 1966 Apollo Test Mission 004 was launched with this very CM, number 002, headed toward an altitude of 24 miles. For this test, the launch vehicle started to tumble as planned, and the CM launch escape system sensed trouble and fired its abort rocket, carrying the CM away from impeding disaster. The CM was recovered normally by parachute after a hard landing in the desert. All went well, the sest successfully proved that he CM launch escape system and earth landing systems could protect the astronauts in either emergency or normal operations. This was the last flight before the Apollo 1 fire