5 Biggest Shuttle Disasters In The History Of Space Exploration

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Updated on 5 Apr, 2018 at 3:06 pm


The exploration of space is fraught with risk. Since we first started putting humans into space, there have been accidents, and people have died. In this list, we will take a closer look at these tragedies and those we have lost.

1. X – 15 (United States of America)

X – 15 was an experimental hypersonic aircraft of NASA’s X – Series but on 15 November 1967, this program ended with a fatal accident killing Major Michael J. Adams of U.S. Air force. Due to an electrical disturbance, an excessive acceleration was caused which resulted in breaking the airframe at the altitude of 60,000 ft. The wreckage of X -15 was found near the northwest of Cuddeback. Later, Major Adams was awarded “Astronaut Wings.”



2. Apollo 1 (United States of America)


Planned to be the first manned mission of Apollo’s Lunar Landing Series, this spacecraft was struck by tragedy on January 27, 1967, killing Virgil Gus Grissom (Command Pilot), Edward White (Senior Pilot) and Roger Chaffee (Pilot). According to the final report of NASA, there were various flaws in the design of command module which resulted a fire in the cockpit. Three precious lives were lost in a moment as they were suffocated by the poisonous gases.



3. Soyuz 11 (Russia)

The crew of Commander Georgi Dobrovolski, Flight Engineer Vladislav Volkov, and Test Engineer Viktor Patsayev was successful to visit the world’s first station – Salyut 1. However, they failed to return as the mission ended with the decompression of capsule while re-entering. When members of recovery team approached the Soyuz 11, they noticed that cosmonauts were strapped in their seats but no one was responding. The three Russian heroes were dead.



4. Challenger (United States of America)

After completing nine successful space missions, this space program of NASA ended with shuttle 51 – L on January 28, 1986, killing the all seven crew members – Francis Scobee (Spacecraft Commander), Michael Smith (Captain), Dr. Judith Resnik (Mission Specialist), Dr. Ronald McNair (Mission Specialist), Lieutenant Colonel Ellison Onizuka (Mission Specialist), Gregory Jarvis (Payload Specialist) and Christa McAuliffe (Payload Specialist). The shuttle exploded just 73 seconds after liftoff at the height of 46,000 ft. due to the failure of O – rings in SRB (Solid Rocket Booster).



5. Columbia (United States of America)

One of the most daunting and expensive disasters in the history of space exploration. On February 1st, 2003, the entire world was watching the live telecast of the arrival of seven brilliant daredevils but their dreams were shattered when shuttle converted into a fireball over Texas. A piece of foam was stuck with the left wing, damaging the external tank of the shuttle. Crew members will never be forgotten for their sacrifice in the name of science and peace. They were – Rick D. Husband (Commander), William C. McCool (Pilot), Michael P. Anderson (Payload Commander), Ilan Ramon (Payload Specialist), Kalpana Chawla (Mission Specialist), David M. Brown (Mission Specialist) and Laurel Clark (Mission Specialist).