Russian spaceships are death traps

Manned Space Disasters

Death on the ground

1967 was a black year for manned space travel. On January 27, a few weeks before the planned first manned launch of an Apollo spacecraft, NASA astronauts Chaffee, Grissom and White burned to death on the ground during a test run of the Apollo 1 command module.

They knew the risks. "Gus" Grissom, a 39 year old test pilot, has already made two space flights. In 1961 he almost drowned when his "Mercury" capsule landed. "Ed" White completed NASA's first spacecraft mission aboard Gemini 4 in 1965.

The Apollo 1 accident led to a delay in the NASA lunar program, but provided more safety and fire protection technology in NASA spacecraft.

Death on landing

On April 24 of the same year, the 40-year-old Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov had problems on board his new "Soyuz 1" spaceship. There were several technical problems during the flight, so it was decided to land early.

During the last orbit around the earth, the spaceship then began to roll violently. At the last second, Komarov managed to manually control the capsule on course for landing. But the parachute lines got mixed up during this maneuver and Komarow fell unchecked to the earth.

Komarov was the first astronaut to die on a mission in space. The NASA astronauts also sent condolence telegrams at the time.

Explosions before the eyes of the world

In 1986, almost 19 years after the fire at Apollo 1, the space shuttle "Challenger" took off. Challenger had successfully flown nine times into Earth orbit in three years.

In October 1985, the shuttle still had Spacelab D1 on board, a research laboratory mainly financed by the Federal Republic of Germany. The two DLR astronauts Furrer and Messerschmid carried out numerous scientific experiments during this flight.

Then came the next take-off on January 28, 1986. 73 seconds after flight STS-51-L took off, various technical defects in the outer solid propulsion rockets caused an explosion in which the shuttle with seven astronauts on board was destroyed. Among the dead was Christa McAuliff, a 37-year-old teacher who was scheduled to give a live class on board the space shuttle during the mission.

The Challenger disaster resulted in a two-year suspension of all shuttle flights. But the problems increased. The maintenance of the shuttles became more and more complex and difficult. In 2003 another seven astronauts died when the space shuttle "Columbia" landed. The shuttle program was finally discontinued in 2011.