Since the beginning of intensive space exploration 60 years go there have been many significant achievements made in this field. Unfortunately, there have also been multiple very painful tragedies as well. In spite of failures, mankind bravely continues researching outer space. The desire to find answers to mysteries that surround the nature of the Universe and increase our knowledge is greater than the fear of failure.
Here are some of the biggest tragedies in the history of space exploration compiled by National Geographic. This list is dedicated to 30 years since the Challenger disaster.
The first death
The first disaster that included the death of cosmonauts took place in 1967, when Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov’s ship’s Soyuz 1 escape pod crashed on Russia’s territory. There are rumours that Komarov and other people knew about the defects of the escape pod but the Soviet leaders had nonetheless ignored their warnings and ordered the launch. Sources say the tragedy was caused by a failure in the pod’s parachute system.
Death of Soviet cosmonauts in space
In 1971, three Soviet cosmonauts died on their way to Earth from Salyut 1 space station. Their space craft Soyuz 11 landed fine. This is why the rescue team was shocked to find the crew dead in their seats with dark blue spots on their faces and blood coming from their noses and ears. The investigation revealed that the space craft’s respiratory ventilation valve had ruptured, choking the cosmonauts. Because the space craft was fitted with an auto-pilot system, it was capable of landing without pilot’s assistance.
On 28 January 1986, 73 seconds after launch, Challenger space shuttle broke apart at 14 km altitude above the Atlantic Ocean, killing seven astronauts that were on board. The shuttle was destroyed by an explosion of an external fuel tank. Christa McAuliffe was a teacher who was part of this mission. She planned to tell American children about the Universe and the possibility of inter-planetary travel from space. Challenger disaster was very traumatic for USA. Because of it, USA halted its space programme for 32 months.
Columbia space shuttle, which was already old, fell apart after entering Earth’s atmosphere on its way back from a 16-day mission on 1 February 2003. All seven astronauts died. Investigation of this disaster revealed that the cause of the disaster was the damage the shuttle had sustained during launch, when debris from the external fuel tank damaged the shuttle’s left wing. Debris had punched a hole in Columbia’s shielding, which ruptured when the shuttle re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Investigators had also found out that NASA engineers had expressed concerns about the possible damage of the shuttle’s wing during its launch. During Columbia’s 16-day mission, engineers requested the team to provide images of shuttle to check for damage times, but no images were provided.
Apollo 1 disaster
Apollo programme was an American manned space flight project. It was launched to carry out a landing on the Moon. On 27 January 1967 three American astronauts died during a test flight of Apollo 1 ship module on Earth. A fire broke out in the cockpit. The crew suffocated and their bodies burned. Multiple errors were uncovered during the investigation. This includes the fact that clean oxygen was being used in the cockpit. In addition, engineers used highly flammable space-suit mounts and the escape hatch of the space craft opened to the inside, which made it difficult for the crew to escape.
Apollo 13 disaster
The Apollo 13 mission served as a clear example of the dangers mankind faces in outer space. Fortunately, it did not end tragically. The launch took place 11 April 1970. The ship’s oxygen tank exploded during flight, which also damaged its service module. This ultimately doomed the plan to land on the Moon. In order to return to Earth, astronauts had to circle around the Moon using its gravity.