Most disastrous space travel catastrophes! These dangerous spaceship accidents have ended many astronaut lives throughout interstellar travel history.
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6: The Challenger Disaster
January 28th, 1986: space shuttle Challenger breaks apart less than two minutes into the flight, ending all seven of the crew members on board. The disaster was the result of an O-ring failure, which ultimately led pressurized gas from the rocket motor pouring out onto the external fuel tank. This caused the orbiter to break apart. When the Challenger disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, it was not known how quickly the seven crew members passed. It comprised of Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis, Ellison Onizuka, and Christa McAuliffe. Photos of the disaster show that the crew cabin did exit the wreckage in tact as it plummeted towards the ocean. Experts agree that if the cabin did not depressurize, it was likely that they were still alive from the time of the breakup until the cabin crashed into the ocean. But the heavy impact with the ocean’s surface would have ended any crew member that was still alive.
5: Soyuz 11
The three-member crew of the Soyuz 11 left our planet on June 30th, 1971 while attempting to re-enter earth’s atmosphere. When their cabin became depressurized, the three cosmonauts, Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev all could no longer breathe. They hold the distinction of being the only three people whose lives ended in space. Their mission had been to board the world’s first space station, Salyut 1. They did that successfully and stayed for 22 days, performing tasks such as replacing a ventilation system, holding a live TV broadcast, and even had plans to observe a rocket launch...a plan that had to be postponed. On June 30th, everything appeared to be going fine. But after re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and a seemingly successful landing in the Soviet Union, officials opened the capsule door to find all three men sitting motionless.
4: The Columbia Disaster
On February 1st, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. As it turns out, a piece of foam had broken off from the external tank during liftoff and hit the wing of the orbiter. When the shuttle re-entered the atmosphere, it caused hot atmospheric gases to destroy the wing, ultimately causing the shuttle to break apart. The crew consisted of Commander Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, Ilan Ramon, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Blair Salton Clark, and David M. Brown. NASA was aware of the displaced piece of foam, but at the time did not think it would hinder the safety of the mission. On four previous flights, foam insulation had fallen off, yet the missions were completed successfully on all four flights. The voyage was described as a “multi-disciplinary microgravity and Earth science research mission.” After accomplishing much of what they set out to do, the crew attempted to land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
3: Michael J. Adams
Adams was an astronaut and former air force pilot and was on his seventh flight when it occurred. This particular flight was a test run of the X-15 experimental craft. A few minutes into the flight, Adams began experiencing problems with the aircraft. He radioed to ground control that he had entered a spin. Ground control was unable to rectify the situation and began preparing for an emergency landing. After some skilled maneuvering, Adams managed to recover the aircraft from the spin, but was descending very rapidly. He likely misinterpreted his instrument display and possibly had vertigo due to the spinning. Furthermore, an electrical malfunction early in the flight likely caused Adams to be distracted, which could be another reason why he lost control of the X-15. NASA implemented new procedures to avoid such tragedies in the future. First, they decided to screen astronauts for vertigo.
1: Apollo 1
Apollo 1 was supposed to be the first manned mission of the U.S manned lunar landing program. On January 27th, 1967, NASA was conducting a simulation test for Apollo 1. In order for the scheduled launch on February 21st to occur on time, this simulation needed to be done successfully. During the simulation, the crew cabin caught on fire. The ground crew attempted to rescue the men, but because dense smoke and immense heat poured out of the module, it took the ground staff nearly five minutes to open the module hatches. When they finally got through, they found the crew’s bodies: Gus Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chaffee.
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