History of Manned Spaceflight - part 5: Human Cost of Manned Spaceflight
The cost and risk of manned space flight has been high. The first confirmed in-flight fatality in the history of spaceflight occurred on April 24, 1967. Colonel Vladimir Komarov was killed when his Soyuz 1 spacecraft crashed during its return to Earth following parachute failure.
The crew of Soyuz 11, Georgiy Dobrovolsky, Viktor Patsayev, Vladislav Volkov were killed on June 30, 1971, by exposure to the vacuum of space after undocking from the Salyut 1 space station. These are the only recorded fatalities in space (i.e. above the Karmann line).
The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when the vehicle broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Mike Smith and Dick Scobee. STS-51-L was the twenty-fifth flight of the American Space Shuttle Program.
The Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew, Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon were lost on February 1, 2003, during reentry at the end of a two-week mission, STS-107. Damage to the vehicle’s thermal protection system led to structural failure in the left wing and ultimately the spacecraft broke apart.
Several astronauts and cosmonauts have also been lost in training accidents, including Valentin Bondarenko, Theodore Freeman, Elliot See, Charles Bassett, Clifton Williams, Robert Lawrence, Yuri Gagarin and Sergei Vozovikov.
The most serious single incident occurred on January 27, 1967, during a pre-launch test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft on Launch Pad 34 at Cape Canaveral. A fatal fire claimed the lives of all three crewmembers, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chaffee, and the Command Module cabin was destroyed.