This week has two major NASA tragedies, so I thought I would write a post about them. Space Flight history as been an interest of mine since I was in elementary school. Its always seemed strange that all the major disasters that become national news (because there were some that never were big stories) happened during the last weeks of January into the first weeks of February.
Its also a reminder that despite the fact that seems almost common place now to go into space and investigate and come back, it really is a dangerous job, and things can go wrong without any warning.
Challenger Accident – January 28, 1986
Today is the 30th Anniversary of the Challenger Accident.
I can’t say I ‘remember’ the incident. I was only a few weeks old, so obviously I don’t. However when Apollo 13 came out and I became interested in space travel and its history I felt connected to this one since it happened so close to when I was born.
On January 28, 1986 Challenger took off from Florida carrying on board seven crew members. It had been a cold morning in Florida and the rapid heat up apparently broke one of the seal rings on the ship. Halfway up, the ship disintegrated and fell into the ocean.
All on board were killed:
- Francis R. Scobee, Commander
- Michael J. Smith, Pilot
- Ronald McNair, Mission Specialist
- Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist
- Judith Resnik, Mission Specialist
- Gregory Jarvis, Payload Specialist
- Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist
(copied and pasted from Wiki, so those links should lead to Wikipages)
This space flight was notable because Christa McAuliffe was a teacher who had trained to go up as part of a program involving ‘civilian’ crew. It also caused a 2 year shutdown of the space program where NASA reviewed procedures, and components of the ships themselves to make sure they were all safe to fly in.
The next mission to go to space was the STS-26, Discovery in September 1988.
More About the Challenger:
Video of Face The Nation (2/2/86) about the accident.
Wikipedia: The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
NASA: Challenger 51-L Mission
Apollo 1 Fire: January 27, 1967
Apollo 1 was to be the first manned mission for the Apollo class spacecraft. It would be this class that would see us reach the moon. However, on January 27, 1967 the ship burst into flames claiming the lives of three men during a routine pre-launch test.
Two of the men killed were veteran Astronauts. Gus Grissom and Ed White (known for taking the first space walk). The third member was a rookie astronaut named Roger Chaffee.
This accident led to a major investigation, and quite a few changes to the Apollo space craft. One major chance was that the oxygen that had been pumped into the command capsule was no longer pure oxygen, but a mix closer to what we breathe normally on earth. Pure Oxygen is extremely flammable.
Changes were also made to the capsule to improve safety measures. The investigation and changes took a year and a half to complete. The first manned mission afterwards was Apollo 7 in October of 1968. Undamaged parts of the rocket were used in unmanned missions testing the other parts of the ship during the 20 months the command module was out of duty.
The launch pad they were to launch from was only used once more for Apollo 7, then dismantled and is now a memorial site to the lost crewmen.
Next year will be Apollo 1’s 50th anniversary.
NASA: Day of Remembrance
Wikipedia: Apollo 1