Although travelling to space may seem like quite an exciting venture that many people have done successfully, it is considered a highly risky endeavor. History shows that space exploration has its fair share of disasters that have cost human lives and also raised some serious concerns about space exploration by humans.

The following is a list of the top ten most historic catastrophic disasters that ever took place in space.

1Space Shuttle Challenger

This happened on 28th January 1986 and the 7 astronaut crew perished. The shuttle burst into flames after 1 minute and 13 seconds into launch. This was caused by o-rings seals that failed in the solid rocket booster that was located on the right. This released hot gases that made it rupture. Studies show that the crew would have survived this explosion but they were not able to when the cockpit which remained intact slammed into the ocean at 320kph. To date, half of the remains of the craft have never been recovered and there are times when they are washed ashore.

2Space shuttle Columbia

The seven person crew lost their lives on 1st Feb 2003 during re-entry. They were coming back from a research mission in the Earth’s orbit that lasted 16 days. Their craft disintegrated over N. Texas. This was also caused by a piece of foam that fell off from the tanks insulation during the takeoff. This hit the left wing of the shuttle and damaged its thermal protection system which paved way for hot air to get into the craft.

3Soyuz 11

This had 3 Soviet cosmonauts who died on 30th June 1971 on their capsule return to Earth. This happened after they had successfully docked their space station in 3 week prior. Their re-entry as well as descent seemed pretty normal but when the rescue team arrived they were stunned to find out the crew had perished. This was caused by a valve that has opened in space leading to rapid asphyxiation and depressurization. The crafts autopilot allowed it to return normally. The deaths are considered the only fatalities that ever happened in the Earth’s atmosphere.

4Soyuz 1

After successfully staying in space, Vladimir Komarov who commanded Soyuz 1 mission on 2nd April 1967 reentered the atmosphere but his parachute failed to deploy which lead to his demise. His death was the first human space fatality.

5Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two

During the test flight of this spaceship everything started off well according to book but it’s twin tail booms deployed unexpectedly on 31st October 2014 after only 9 seconds. The rocket however continued to accelerate but the combination with the drag of the blooms led it to break up over Mojave Desert. One pilot survived and one perished and the incident is still being investigated.

6Apollo 1

This was NASA’s first space disaster that occurred on 27th January 1967 at the testing stage. Fire exploded in the command module and killed the 3 crew members. An inward opening hatch and use of pure oxygen were the main reasons for this disaster.

7T-38 Crash

On 28th February 1966, 2 American pilots died during a training jet run. Their Talon crashed in St, Louis mainly because of poor visibility that led to overshooting in the runway. The pilot changed to visual circling approach and used instruments to bring it down too fast causing it to crash.

8Bondarenko’s Training

A soviet cosmonaut lost his life on 23rd March 1961 as a first space related death. He accidental dropped cotton ball that was alcohol soaked into electric hotplate that he was using to make tea while training in a low pressure and high oxygen chamber. He suffered severe burns and died in hospital.

9X-15 Flight 191

Control and electrical problems led to the death of Adam on 15th November 1967 when his plane broke up. This happened during re-entry from a very high point 81.1 km and its structure broke down near Johannesburg.

10Yuri Gararin

He was the first human to get to space. He was also a victim of training jet crash in the ground that caused his death as well as that of his flight instructor on 27th March 1968. Reports show that it crashed after they were trying to avoid a weather balloon although there are still much conspiracy and speculation that surrounds their death. Every 12th April, Yuri’s night is celebrated all over the globe to boost interest in space exploration and honor space milestones.


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