The first U.S. Apollo mission was to be
called Apollo 1. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were
the astronauts for this mission. The three men died, however,
in a fire inside their command module during a pre-flight test
at a launch pad in Florida. The date of this tragedy was January
The atmosphere inside the Command Module
was pure oxygen at 16.0 psi. Note that air pressure at sea level
is 14.7 psi.
An electrical spark from a wire apparently ignited the oxygen.
The spacecraft was filled with flames and smoke. The temperature
soared to 2500 degrees F.
The astronauts were unable to escape because the hatch required
ninety seconds to open. The astronauts died of smoke inhalation.
The Command Module was redesigned after the fire. The hatch was
redesigned to allow for a quick escape. Furthermore, a mixed-gas
atmosphere was used for future pre-launch activities. The pre-launch
mixture was changed to 60% oxygen and 40% nitrogen. The mixture
was gradually changed to pure oxygen as the spacecraft ascended.
Also, the astronaut spacesuit was modified to be fire-resistant.
The Soviet Soyuz 1 spacecraft crash landed
in April 1967, because its
parachute failed to deploy. Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov died in
Three more cosmonauts died during the
Soyuz 11 mission in 1971. A valve in the descent module activated
during re-entry, releasing the cabin air into space. The cosmonauts
were Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev.
The Space Shuttle Challenger launch time
was January 28, 1986 at 11:38:00 AM Eastern Standard Time. The
launch site was Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Challenger exploded
73 seconds after launch, at an altitude of about 46,000 feet.
All of the astronauts were killed.
The seven astronauts for the final Challenger
mission were: Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ronald E.
McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Gregory B. Jarvis,
and Sharon Christa McAuliffe.
The final mission was called STS-51L.
It was the 25th shuttle flight.
The space shuttle Columbia was launched
on January 16, 2003, for the STS-107
space research mission. The shuttle reentered the atmosphere
on February 1, for
the planned landing at Kennedy Space Center.
The vehicle broke up while traveling at12,500
mph (Mach 18.3) at an altitude of
207,135 ft over East Central Texas resulting in the tragic loss
of both the vehicle and the astronauts.
The seven astronauts were: Rick Husband,
William McCool, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Mike Anderson, Laurel
Clark, Ilan Ramon.