The worst space failures in history
Scientists estimate that we are less than 100 years from off-world living becoming a real possibility for humans. Coupled with the recent environmental deadline, which says that in 11 years the effects of climate change will be irreversible, the need to leave earth could become more urgent. Space exploration has seen its fair share of setbacks. Even now that we’ve sent numerous rockets and satellites into orbit, the crash potential is huge. This article will highlight three of the worst space failures in history and the causes.
Soyuz I - 1967
This was the first fatal accident during space travel. Cosmonaut, Vladimir Komarov, crashed in his capsule on Russian soil in 1967, with tragic consequences. Various accounts agree that this occurred due to a parachute failure during landing. Komarov reportedly cried in anger in his last moments at the engineers whom he blamed for the fault. Due to the fierce and sometimes reckless nature of the space race, the Soviets (and Americans) were less concerned with safety than success. A KGB source actually confirmed that Komarov and others involved in the launch knew the capsule would fail but were ignored by the Soviet Union.
Space Junk - Ongoing
Since the first rockets, broken pieces of machinery have been collecting in orbit. Now, there are over 250,000 pieces of space junk being tracked by space organizations, with up to 5 million too small to track. Space junk is made up of meteoroids, broken parts, and offline satellites. Orbital speeds can reach deadly speeds, several times that of a bullet. This is why space organizations track junk, avoiding fatal collisions as much as possible. It is a realistic and very serious concern for space exploration. Gravity, an award-winning 2013 film, tells the story of astronauts who are stuck in space after their shuttle is struck with space debris.
The Challenger - 1986
If there was ever a space race PR nightmare, it was the challenger launch of 1986. The US space effort had proceeded with no fatalities during the Apollo launch. As a result, the Americans felt confident televising the launch of their new rocket live. The launch was a disaster, exploding shortly after liftoff. None of the seven crew members survived. The live explosion was said to ‘traumatize’ the nation. A high-profile investigation revealed that the ‘O-ring’ seals failed due to the low temperature of the launch day, causing the crash. Similarly to the Soviet’s handling of Soyuz I, NASA was aware of this and proceeded anyway.
As space exploration learns from its mistakes and becomes more advanced, a trip to space could become as routine as an overseas flight. However, history has shown that accidents can happen and the results of those accidents can be fatal. Hopefully, there will be no cut corners when the time comes to live off-world and similar disasters won’t reoccur.