For more than half a century of space exploration, mankind has achieved considerable success - we managed to "settle" in Earth's orbit thanks to space stations, and even visit the Moon several times, where American cosmonauts conducted a number of studies and collected samples of lunar soil. And these are only those achievements that were achieved with the direct participation of a person. And in the field of unmanned missions, we have moved even further, which made it possible to collect detailed information about other planets, including Mars with its mysterious history. However, space exploration also has a tragic side. For all the time, the number of people killed was about 330 people. Moreover, the most large-scale disasters occurred not even in space, but on Earth, during the preparation of spaceships for flights. Dozens of people became victims at once. Some of them were not made public or were generally classified, and the details became known many years later thanks to independent investigations. Our selection contains 5 of the largest and most terrifying disasters in the history of astronautics.
The explosion of a ballistic missile at the Baikonur cosmodrome (1960)
It was the largest and only disaster that happened at the Baikonur cosmodrome during the space race between the USSR and the USA. It happened during preparations for the launch of the all-new P-16 ballistic missile in 1960. The launch was timed to coincide with the 43rd anniversary of the October Revolution.
According to some reports, the tragedy at Baikonur took the lives of 126 people
Since the work was carried out in a total rush, many serious mistakes were made during its assembly, and safety rules were violated. All this led to tragic consequences. As a result of the premature start of the engine, the propellant ignited and then exploded. As a result, everything that was near the rocket was destroyed. Burned alive and died from severe burns, according to various sources, from 76 to 126 people.
Information about the tragedy was immediately classified, like many other disasters in the USSR. Therefore, no official statements from the authorities followed. The relatives and friends of the victims told about the accident, which was not connected with the cosmodrome.
Apollo 1 command module fire (1967)
The tragedy, although far from the most ambitious, nevertheless terrifies in its details. It happened in the midst of the moon race. The Americans knew that, although the USSR was seriously lagging behind the United States, it was also working on a lunar shuttle. Therefore, the Apollo program was implemented in a great hurry.
Apollo 1 crew training in 1967
In 1966, the first successful tests of Apollo 1 in unmanned mode took place. At the end of February 1967, manned launches of the shuttle were to take place. For preparatory training, the first version of the command module was delivered to Cape Canaveral in January 1967. Almost immediately, it turned out that the module had serious flaws. Some of the changes the engineers had to do on the spot.
The tragedy happened on January 27 during the simulation training of the crew. The task was to check the operation of the instruments. The crew members entered the cockpit at about one o'clock in the afternoon. Pure oxygen was pumped into the module as an artificial atmosphere. During training, problems constantly arose. Communication with the astronauts was periodically interrupted, and reports of the appearance of strange odors were received from them. As a result, the workout was interrupted periodically, but it was never completely canceled.
The crew of the Apollo 1 shuttle shortly before the tragedy
During the next check of the sensors by the astronauts, a strong energy surge was recorded. After 10 seconds, at 18:31 local time, one of the crew members shouted that there was a fire in the cockpit. The cameras captured how the astronaut made his way to the hatch and tried to open it, but the attempts were in vain as a result of the ill-conceived hatch design. Other astronauts asked for help via radio communication, but soon the connection with them was interrupted.
The people arrived in time to find that all the crew members were already dead. After this event, the materials inside the module were replaced with non-combustible materials, the wires were insulated with Teflon, and the hatch structure was finalized. In addition, a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen in the proportion of 60% and 40% was used as an artificial atmosphere.
The explosion of the Vostok rocket at the Plesetsk cosmodrome (1980)
At the Plesetsk cosmodrome on March 8, 1980, final work was carried out to prepare for the launch of the Vostok rocket. She was supposed to deliver the Icarus spy satellite into orbit. The rocket was fueled with various fuels. At the last stage, it was filled with hydrogen peroxide. At that moment, 300 tons of fuel ignited, followed by a powerful explosion.
The explosion of the Vostok rocket in 1980 killed 48 people
A violent fire immediately killed 44 people. 4 more people later died from severe burns. 39 people were seriously burned and injured.
The true cause of the tragedy became known only sixteen years later. An independent investigation showed that hazardous filter materials were used in the fuel filters, which caused the fire.
Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion (1986)
The disaster occurred in 1986 on the first minute of the Challenger shuttle flight. As it became known, the explosion was caused by the destruction of the accelerator sealing ring. As a result, the fiery jet of the jet engine burned through the lining of the external fuel tank.
As it turned out, not all crew members died as a result of the fire. Three of them managed to turn on the devices for personal air supply. However, this did not save them - death occurred as a result of the impact of the living compartment on the ocean water at a speed of over 300 km / h.
As a result of this tragedy, 6 crew members died, as well as a 37-year-old teacher, who was supposed to become the first space tourist. Sharon McAuliffe's chance to be in space came as a result of winning the Master in Space Project.
The disaster at the Alcantara cosmodrome (2003)
The event took place on August 22, 2003 in Brazil at the Alcantara cosmodrome. The launch of the VLS-3 rocket was to take place here, which would make Brazil the first space power in Latin America. By the way, this was the third attempt after two consecutive failures.
The explosion at the Alcantara cosmodrome paralyzed the Brazilian space program for a long time
During the final tests, about 100 people worked near the rocket. One of the rocket's first stage engines suddenly started up, causing a massive fire and subsequent explosion of the fuel tanks. As a result, the ten-story structure of the launch pad and the rocket itself were completely destroyed.
The incident killed many engineers and scientists, paralyzing the country's space program. The technical cause of the accident was never found. The exact cause of the accident, which took the lives of 21 people, has not been established.