How Many Tragedies Have There Been In Space and What Was NASA’s First Fatal Accident On a Spacecraft?

Traveling in space is dangerous.

No possibility of life exists beyond the support functions brought from Earth.

Getting off and back onto Earth requires the use of highly volatile and dangerous materials. Space travelers are face-to-face not only with the laws of physics, but also their own mortality.

The first fatal accident occurred on January 27, 1967, relatively early in the history of manned flights.

U.S. astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee boarded Apollo 1 for a routine countdown test.

The test was not considered dangerous because the rocket was not fueled; however, poor insulation of electrical wires apparently started a fire in the capsule, which was filled with pure oxygen.

The astronauts died of smoke inhalation before the capsule was engulfed in flames.

The Soviet space program experienced its first fatality on April 23, 1967, when a Soyuz capsule’s parachute failed to operate properly.

The capsule crashed, killing cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov.

A successful mission aboard the Soviet space station Salyut 1 turned into tragedy as the Soyuz 11 spacecraft carrying three cosmonauts back to Earth malfunctioned.

A valve intended to let air in just prior to touchdown sprang open early on in the journey home. The capsule’s air was instantly sucked out into the vacuum of space, and Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Victor Patseyev were suffocated.

The fatal explosion of the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, was witnessed by millions of adults and children, who watched the launch because of its historic value.

Christa MacAuliffe, a schoolteacher, and Gregory Jarvis, a Hughes Aircraft employee, had been chosen to be the first civilians to go into space. Seconds after launch, a fire ignited and the shuttle exploded almost instantly.

Along with MacAuliffe and Jarvis, Dick Scobee, Mike Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Ron McNair, and Judy Resnik perished in the disaster.

The first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, died on March 27, 1968, in an aircraft accident while training for a Soyuz mission.

Our gratitude to these brave men and women, and their families and friends, should never diminish.