April 17, 2024

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How many astronauts died during their mission?

How many astronauts died during their mission?

We are on the cusp of a new space revolution, as commercial flights will transport more and more people beyond Earth's atmosphere. How dangerous would such a space flight actually be? Or to make it more realistic and depressing: How many astronauts have died during their mission?

So far, about 650 people have gone into space. Although space travel has had a fair number of accidents, especially in the early stages, there have been relatively few deaths. Nineteen astronauts died during the mission, less than 3% of the total.

The majority of these deaths can be attributed to two missions. In 1986, the American space shuttle crashed Challenger They separated about a minute after launch. All seven crew members were killed. In 2003, seven astronauts died again on board a US space shuttle. Then it was Columbia that disintegrated as it reentered Earth's atmosphere.

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The other five deaths date back to the early days of space travel. In 1967, things got worse during an American and a Soviet mission.

In 1971, three Soviet cosmonauts had the dubious honor of being the only people to date to die in space, more than 100 kilometers above the Earth's surface. They spent three weeks on the Salyut 1 space station, after which the Soyuz 11 spacecraft had to bring them home. Disaster struck en route when the landing capsule separated from the rest of the spacecraft. Because the valve was broken, the capsule did not close properly and air leaked out very quickly. Shortly thereafter, the trio died of suffocation.

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Text: Yannick Fritschi

Image: Kennedy Space Center/NASA