Tragic Disasters of Space Exploration

By | November 14, 2018

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The shuttle Challenger rises on a pillar of flame on January 28, 1986 just moments before exploding in a ball of fire. All 7 astronauts aboard died.

Boldly going where no man has gone before is a risky and dangerous endeavor. There are so many unknowns and variables with space travel that, occasionally, things don’t go as planned. Both the U.S. space program and the Soviet space program have encountered their fair share of tragic accidents that highlight the risks that the astronauts face and the challenges of slipping the surly bonds of earth. Here are a few of the disasters befalling the space programs. 

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The Space Shuttle exploded 72 seconds after launch.

Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

Perhaps the most well-known of the space disasters, the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger was a dark day in NASA history. Much hype surrounded the launching of the Challenger, in part because the spacecraft was to carry the first civilian, the Teacher in Space, Christa McAuliffe. On a beautiful, sunny day … January 28, 1986…the shuttle made a perfect launch, but just 72 seconds later, the Challenger burst into flames and broke apart. The crew compartment continued to climb higher in the sky after the initial explosion and then plummeted to the ocean below, killing all seven people on board. Subsequent investigations determined that a faulty O-ring on the external fuel tank was to blame for the disaster, that was watched live and via television broadcast by the majority of people in America. Then-President Ronald Reagan remarked at the memorial service for the fallen astronauts, “Sometimes when we reach for the stars, we fall short, but we must pick ourselves up again and press on.”