Wednesday, April 24, 2013

First Cosmonaut Killed In Spaceflight, April 24, 1967

Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov became the first in-flight fatality in the history of spaceflight when the Soyuz 1 crashed during its return to Earth on April 24, 1967. Komarov was a Soviet test pilot, aerospace engineer, and cosmonaut in the first group of cosmonauts selected in 1960. He was chosen to command Soyuz 1 as part of the Soviet Union's bid to reach the Moon first. The mission made him the first cosmonaut to fly into outer space more than once, but it was plagued by technical issues. The Soyuz 1 experienced a power shortage and trouble with the stabilization system, so the mission was aborted. Komarov was able to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere on his 19th orbit, but the parachute failed and the module crashed into the ground, killing him instantly. The accident brought attention to the extreme risk of space exploration. When he made it to the Moon, Neil Armstrong left a package of memorial items to honor fallen astronauts and cosmonauts like Komarov. In 1959, as an engineer-captain, Kormarov was invited to participate in the selection process for cosmonaut candidate along with approximately 3000 other pilots. He didn't meet age, height, and weight specifications laid out for the space program but his Air Force Academy flight experience allowed him to qualify as a member of "Air Force Group One." Komarov successfully commanded the Voskhod 1 on a short mission in October of 1964, for which he was awarded the Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union honors. He was also posthumously named a Gold Star Hero of the Soviet Union.


Meanwhile in the U.S.A. also in 1967

Apollo 4, (also known as Apollo-Saturn 501 and AS-501), was the first test flight for the Saturn V, the launch vehicle which was ultimately used by the U.S. Apollo program to send the first astronauts to the Moon. Apollo 4 flew without a crew, and was an "all-up test", meaning all rocket stages and spacecraft would be fully functional on the initial flight, a first for NASA. It was the first time the S-IC first stage and S-II second stage flew. It also demonstrated the S-IVB third stage's first in-flight restart. The mission used a Block I Command Service Module (CSM) modified to test several key Block II revisions, including its heat shield at simulated lunar-return velocity and angle.

The launch, on November 9, 1967, was the first from the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida. The mission lasted almost nine hours, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, achieving all mission goals. NASA deemed the mission a complete success, because it proved the Saturn V worked, an important step towards achieving the Apollo program's primary objective: landing astronauts on the Moon, and bringing them back safely before the end of the decade...

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