Comprehensive coverage

17 astronauts have been killed so far in space launches by the American agency

 A miracle in space - Apollo 13 got into serious trouble and returned safely. A similar miracle did not happen to Colombia

  The explosion in the American space shuttle Challenger 73 seconds after launch, on January 28, 1986. The disaster killed seven crew members, including the first teacher to be launched into space. Photo: NASA

Notable disasters in the history of space exploration

* October 91, 1960: Crew members were killed at a launch site in Kazakhstan in a rocket explosion

* January: 1967 Three crew members burned to death during the Apollo 1 mirror simulation - the three are Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee

* April: 1967, the first man in space, Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov, was killed on his return to space

* April: 1970 The Apollo 13 crew was returned to Earth in a space vehicle after an explosion in the spacecraft

* March 50, 1980: Technicians were killed at a launch site in Russia during liquid fuel filling
* January: 1986 the shuttle Challenger exploded during launch; The crew members were killed
Since its establishment, on October 1, 1958, NASA has known several disasters and failures that occurred in the lives of ten astronauts. The explosion of the space shuttle Columbia brings to 17 the number of people killed in space disasters involving the agency.

NASA was established by virtue of the decision of the American government, and 11 days after its establishment, it already supervised the launch of the Pioneer 1 spacecraft, which was supposed to reach the moon. The beginning did not bode well: the unmanned spacecraft exploded on Earth, due to an incorrect calculation of the launch angle and the acceleration to which it should reach.

This was the first in a series of serious faults that were discovered during launches and landings and during manned and unmanned journeys to the moon. Pioneer 2, which was launched about a month after the Pioneer 1 crash, also crashed on Earth. The problem this time was related to ignition in the third stage of the rocket, and as a result the spacecraft was unable to leave the limits of the atmosphere. Less than a month later, a third attempt was made, which also failed after the rocket's boosters were cut off prematurely, at the end of the first stage. Even in this case, the rocket that carried the unmanned spacecraft failed to bring it into outer space.

In the early 60s, NASA did a series of experiments called "Ranger". The purpose of the experiments was to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon, a sort of prelude to the manned landing that would take place a few years later. The four experiments in the series failed: Ranger 1, launched in August 1961, exploded on Earth after the rockets that were supposed to carry it into space failed in the second stage of the launch. Ranger 2 was launched three months later, and a problem with the control system of the spacecraft's movement in space prevented it from reaching the required orbit. Ranger 3 was launched at the end of January 1962 and problems with the spacecraft's engine caused it to miss the moon by 36 thousand kilometers.
Ranger 4, launched in April 1962, exploded on the moon, because a stopwatch in the spacecraft's computer that was supposed to instruct the engines to soften the landing did not work. Two other attempts to land on the moon also failed: Servior spacecraft were launched in September 1966 and July 1976 and exploded on the moon due to problems in the engines and disconnected from the command center in Houston.

The series of Gemini spacecraft launches during the 60s were more successful - and a good thing, since most of them were manned. However, even during these flights there were quite a few disruptions. For example, Gemini 4, which was launched into space in June 1965, was supposed to test and evaluate the spacecraft's computer systems during a four-day space flight. The goal was not achieved, after a NASA programmer changed the computer's instructions and caused it to malfunction during the attempt to carry out the mission. Gemini 8, which was launched on March 16, 1966, was supposed to connect to a space vehicle. Problems with the spacecraft's control system caused the docking to be disconnected 34 minutes after it was made, and the spacecraft returned to Earth just over ten hours after it left.

Gemini 9A, launched in June 1966, also encountered problems. This time it was the rockets that were supposed to bring the spaceship into orbit around the earth - problems with their function caused a sharp change in the takeoff angle of the spaceship, and it ended up in the wrong orbit.

NASA's first major disaster occurred on January 27, 1967. Three astronauts who were imaging the mirror of the Apollo 1 spacecraft burned to death after a fire broke out in the spacecraft's interior. From a later investigation it turned out that the control personnel found no less than 20 malfunctions in the spacecraft, but NASA did not change the target date for takeoff.

The journey of Apollo 13, which was launched on April 11, 1970 and was supposed to land on the moon, almost ended in disaster, after an explosion occurred inside the spacecraft during a routine inspection of the oxygen tanks. The three crew members moved to the spacecraft, while their oxygen is running out and the cold is freezing. In the end, NASA managed to return the three to Earth.

Compared to the "happy ending" of the launch in the early 70s, a horrific disaster occurred in January 1986. NASA decided to launch the space shuttle Challenger for the tenth time on January 28, 73, the coldest day on which a spacecraft was launched in the USA. 1987 seconds after liftoff the spaceship exploded in mid-air, probably due to a malfunctioning seal in one of the rockets that lifted the spaceship off the ground, and the seven crew members were killed. Following the disaster, all space flights were canceled in XNUMX. Public confidence in the American space program was also severely damaged, in part because an investigation conducted after the disaster revealed that NASA engineers pleaded with the agency's management not to launch Challenger on the day it was launched, to no avail. .

Since then, NASA's space program has known two more spectacular failures, both during the launch of unmanned spacecraft to Mars. In September 1992, the Mars Observer was sent to photograph Mars, and when the spacecraft approached the planet, contact was lost. The financial investment in this project was estimated at about one billion dollars. On January 3, 1999, another spacecraft, the Mars Fuller Lander, was launched with a more ambitious goal - to land on Mars, even though its cost was about a tenth lower than that of the Mars Observer. The flight went without incident, and 12 minutes before landing the control center in Houston was still receiving live signals from the spacecraft. After that nothing was heard from her, and apparently she crashed on the surface of the planet. The reason for this is still unknown.

In March 2000, a report written by Tony Sapir, who was one of NASA's senior managers, was published. In the report, which included 18 pages, it was determined that the "faster, better, cheaper" policy adopted by NASA since the Challenger disaster does not lead to better results, but rather to more failures. Sapir also wrote that "the failure rate of NASA's missions is too high and must be reduced quickly."
According to him, while it is possible to have "glorious failures" from which important lessons can be learned, NASA's failures in the last decade stem from "poor communication and mistakes by the engineering department and NASA management."

Frank Hoven, another senior administrator at NASA who served the agency for 30 years, said a few months ago in an interview with the website that NASA's "cheaper" policy will one day claim victims. "In the past, you weren't allowed to take risks at NASA. Today NASA says: 'Even if we lose some spaceships, the main thing is that we make them cheaper.'"


About 150 deaths in the 30 years of space exploration in the USSR

The disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia is the latest in a series of failures that caused the death of dozens of astronauts and ground personnel, most of them Russian.

The first disaster happened in October 1960 when an R-16 missile that was supposed to carry a spacecraft
God of Space exploded on the ground in Kazakhstan, at one of Brit's launch sites
the Soviets, causing the death of 91 crew members and land. In April 1967, the first astronaut to go into space, cosmonaut Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov, was killed after he failed to open his emergency parachute when the spacecraft landed. In June 1971, three more Russian cosmonauts were killed, when the spacecraft they were flying into space returned to Earth. Finally, in March 1980, 50 technicians were killed at one of the launch sites in Russia while filling with liquid fuel. The accident was only reported nine years later.

Since then, there have been many accidents and malfunctions that caused billions of dollars in damage but, as far as is known, did not cost human lives: in the 90s, several rockets carrying satellites into space crashed, including European, Chinese, Russian and Ukrainian rockets.

The crashes of the Russian rockets join the repeated malfunctions at the Russian Mir space station. The first component of the Russian space station was launched into space on February 20. 1986 Since then, Russian cosmonauts have spent hundreds of days there, many of them devoted to repeated repairs to the disintegrating space station. 1997 was perhaps the most difficult year for the Russian space station: on February 24, for example, there was an explosion in the space station when one of the cosmonauts tried to change an oxygen filter. The team had to stay for several hours with gas masks, until the smoke was pumped out. In March, an attempt to connect a supply spacecraft to the station failed, and the oxygen supply system also broke down.
In April, a leak was discovered in the cooling system, and in June, a supply spacecraft collided with the space station, causing a temporary loss of air pressure. In July, one of the team members disconnected a vital computer cable and caused a general power outage and loss of control over the station, which was restored only a few hours later. In August, the station's main computer crashed, and once again in September. In June 2000, the last space crew left the station and in March 2002, after 16 years in space, Mir was returned to Earth and burned up in the atmosphere.

Although Mir has been ridiculed around the world and its careless cosmonauts have been featured in Hollywood movies, Mir is considered the largest space experiment ever conducted.


A miracle in space - Apollo 13 got into serious trouble and returned safely. A similar miracle did not happen to Colombia 
  The first flight into space, by the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961 and then by his successors, Russians and Americans, infected the world with endless enthusiasm. Here space has been conquered, here man has broken out from the borders of the earth into the vastness of the universe. No one stopped then to ask, at what price the space will be occupied. Accidents happen, always - in the air, at sea and on land. It was only a matter of time before accidents would also occur in space, but human nature, curiosity, and above all faith in the power of science, which had reached its peak, defeated the anxiety, or at least pushed it into recognition.

Yesterday's Columbia shuttle disaster, with the Israeli Ilan Ramon on board, was not the first in space. The first accident, of Apollo 1, at least the first "official" accident, because in the Soviet Union at the time they used to hide accidents. Today it is already quite clear that some serious disasters must have happened there, but the fog has not yet been lifted. Ironically, the Apollo 1 disaster occurred on the ground, on January 28, 1967, not even during the countdown to flight, but during practice for a flight that was to take off on February 21, 1967.

Two veteran astronauts, Virgil Grissom and Edward White, and rookie Roger Chaffee perished in the disaster. "Fire in the spaceship", one of the three managed to shout on the internal communication system, before a red flame enveloped Apollo. When the fatal fire broke out, the three were tied to their seats. Their only chance of escape might have been if they quickly released themselves from their seats and opened the spaceship's portholes, but the fire broke out so quickly that they didn't have time to move.

Firefighters felt for the spaceship in the elevator of the shipping tower, but could not save the trapped. Only after the smoke cleared did the rescue teams manage to open the portholes and saw a horrible sight: the charred corpses of the three astronauts, tied to their seats. A few more hours passed before the bodies could be removed. The cause of the disaster was apparently the conditions for the launch - clean oxygen, and a spark from one of the electrical systems was enough to cause a general flare-up.

The whole world was amazed. Also the Soviet Union, which sincerely mourned the United States, in the fraternity of space pioneers. The US was in shock, commissions of inquiry were established, state funerals were held, the dead astronauts and the grieving families became the nation's heroes. And although questions were asked about the future of space programs, it soon became clear that the conquest of space would continue, just as plane accidents at the beginning of aviation did not prevent the development of air transportation.

Edward White was the first to float in space, in June 1965 on the Gemini flight. Virgil Grissom was better known. Until his death, he managed to fly into space twice. Before that he was a hero of the Korean War and an outstanding test pilot.

Only four months passed, and before the shock of the Apollo disaster had worn off, a second disaster occurred, this time for the Russians. Today: 26.4.67 Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was about to finish his mission in space, in the Soyuz 1 spacecraft. The disaster occurred during the return to Earth, but unlike in the case of the Columbia shuttle, the malfunction did not occur at the moment of entering the atmosphere, but at a low altitude, about seven kilometers above Ground. It turned out that the parachute, which was supposed to slow down the speed of the spacecraft's fall, had its cables tangled and the spacecraft accelerated at a tremendous speed and crashed. Komarov had previously managed to fly into space and return safely, with the giant spaceship Vaskhud 1.
Four years of kindness passed over the space pioneers, four years that are enough to forget, if only a little, the records of the disasters. Then on 30.6.1970 came another shock. The Soyuz 11 flight ended in disaster, after the cosmonauts had spent 24 days in space. Soyuz 11 launched from the space base in Kazakhstan and was attached to the unmanned space station Sally and T. The spaceship did indeed land on the ground, but when the rescue team entered the space of the cosmonauts, Giorgi Dobrovlski, Viktor Pachaev and Vladislav Volkov were found lifeless. They were still strapped to their seats. Since the Russians did not release details about the disaster, scientists in the West speculated that the cause of death was a malfunction in the heat shield, which was supposed to protect the three during their return to the atmosphere.

According to reports from the landing zone, no mechanical malfunctions occurred during the spacecraft's return to Earth. According to other hypotheses, the body systems of the three could not withstand the great effort after 23 days of weightlessness in space. The assumption was that the three lost consciousness in a fraction of a second. After four minutes of wireless silence, during which the spaceship passed the sound barrier and re-entered the atmosphere, contact was not restored and it was clear that something terrible had happened. The three received a state burial, like their predecessor, Vladimir Komarov.

Then there was a rather long lull in space disasters - 16 years. Space flights have already become commonplace, although they were broadcast live, but the world no longer held its breath during the launch or landing. The world just got used to it. Then came the most terrible day of all, a tragedy that everyone who witnessed it will never forget. Today, 6, the space shuttle Challenger is about to launch a mission from Cape Kennedy. Until that day, the US registered 28.1.198 successful manned flights. The only disaster until then happened on the ground and the Americans had no doubt that the lesson was learned, and every screw was checked a thousand times, and another accident was avoided. Thousands nevertheless came to the launch site, as if to a picnic, to witness another chapter in the glorious space history of the USA. This time, seven astronauts were about to take off, including astronaut Judith Resnik, the first Jew in space, who two years earlier had flown on the shuttle Discovery.
It all happened in the blink of an eye. Thousands at the launch site and millions of others in front of the television screens watched comfortably as the huge shuttle, to which the missiles and fuel tanks are attached, takes off to Al. Applause, shouts of enthusiasm were heard. Another moment or two and the crowd was about to disperse. At that second the spaceship reached an altitude of 16 km, then suddenly it was surrounded by a huge ball of fire and the disintegrating shuttle dived into the ocean.

The next day the headline in "Maariv" was "Horror in Space: Millions Watched Death by Fireball". A slow projection of the television footage from the moment of launch to the fraction of a second in which the disaster occurred revealed that exactly 70 seconds after zero time, flames or hot gases, probably from the left booster rocket, were seen surrounding Challenger. Apart from Resnick, six more perished in the horrific disaster: Francis Scobie, Michael Smith, Ronald McNair, Alison Anzoka, Gregory Jarvis and Christy McAuliffe.

McAuliffe's death especially touched everyone's heart, as she was not an astronaut or a scientist at all. She was a school teacher and her inclusion on the flight was, to some extent, a media gimmick. She, as the representative of the common people, was then to tell about her impressions to the youth of America, as well as to all the students around the world.
The Columbia disaster, yesterday, reminded again of the limitations of man's power, his helplessness in the event of an unexpected malfunction, far from the earth. In the past, a miracle once happened to the Apollo shuttle that was in trouble. That ferry managed in a miraculous way, which was recreated in the film, to return safely. A similar miracle did not happen to Colombia.


Death on the way to glory - this is how Gagarin got to space

Alex Doron, Ma'ariv, explains: This has never been officially confirmed, but the scientific community dealing with space has always pointed out that even before the first man was launched into space, aka the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who took off on April 12, 1961 in the Vostok 1 spacecraft, for a stay of only 109 minutes outside the earth - several Russian test pilots were killed, still during their training.

The details of this are unknown even today, but in 1973 someone who probably had a rather central part in making the history of space flights arrived in Israel: he designed Gagarin's space suit. In an interview he gave five years later, seven disappointments from the absorption difficulties he experienced in Israel, chemistry professor Vitali Raevski, who holds dozens of patents, who was then a lecturer and researcher at the Technion in Haifa, said that at least two Russian pilots were killed before Gagarin was launched.
"Three suits made of special fabric were planned for the first flight. They were sewn in a rubber laboratory of a factory of the Soviet military industry, 200 km from Moscow. The suit had to withstand all heat conditions, not be permeable to gases. Within seven months of the landing of the instruction from above, the suit was ready. It was made of synthetic rubber, light gray in color, made of several layers including an insulation and connection layer. It was lightweight, hermetic, incredibly flexible and indestructible. It was a material specially developed for this purpose, there was nothing like it in the world at the time."

During the experiments that preceded Gagarin's flight, she was tested in conditions of a descent from a considerable height (she was intended to be used by a cosmonaut who had to return from a height of 20 km from the Earth). The landing was supposed to be slow, "soft". But the disasters happened in the experiments. At least two of the Russian space pilots took their own lives when they burned up in the spacecraft cabin.
In one case, Raevsky said, one of the pilots did not wear his suit correctly, did not take care of its airtightness - he dried up and died, when he was parachuted from a great height and passed through several layers of the atmosphere. But this disaster is not counted in the number of Russian space disasters.
"Gagarin was actually candidate number 3 for the historic flight. The first person designated for this task was actually the son of one of the leaders of the Soviet space industry at its inception, his name was Kuiknaki, who was of course close to the party leaders. He perished in the last experiments. Gagarin was actually a duplicate of number 2, who fell ill at the last minute.

Only a handful of scientists were in on the secret of this space operation and they were under 24 hour surveillance by KGB agents. Even during M's experiments with the materials of the suit itself, several disasters occurred - explosions of flammable materials in which seven people were seriously injured. None of them remained healthy."

One response

  1. Komarov really wasn't "the first man in space". The first man in space was Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Komarov's first flight was only in 1964, and he was killed on his second flight in 1967.

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.