Dozens of launch pad disasters over the years

Dozens of launch pad disasters over the years
Back row, from left: mission specialist Ellison S. Onizuka, Teacher in Space participant Christa McAuliffe, payload specialist Greg Jarvis and mission specialist Judy Resnik. Front row, from left: pilot Mike Smith, commander Dick Scobee and mission specialist Ron McNair.

Tuesday night’s NASA explosion is actually one of dozens of failed launches that have taken place in the 57 years that the country has explored space flight.

Some of them have been catastrophic.

Anyone who was around in 1986 will remember the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger when it took place on live television Jan. 28, killing the seven on board and leaving the country in shock. The crew that included Ronald McNair, the second black American in space, and Christa McAuliffe, the first school teacher to fly in space, received much publicity before the launch, and this seemed to make the explosion much more personal for the country. A seal on a rocket booster ruptured at liftoff and allowed gas to rush from the motor.

But the Challenger explosion was certainly not the first major space flight disaster.

A generation before the Challenger disaster, three astronauts died Jan. 27, 1967, during a training exercise for the AS-204 mission, later renamed Apollo 1.

Perhaps an omen, the first hours of the exercise saw many mishaps, according to Space.Com. A high oxygen flow rate in the astronauts’ suits tripped an alarm, and static in the communications system prevented adequate conversations between the crew and mission control.

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But the real trouble took place shortly after 6:30 p.M. Technicians monitoring the exercise from Mission Control noticed a sudden surge in oxygen flow and pressure. One or more of the astronauts could be heard over the audio system saying “Fire” and “We’re burning up.” Crews could not open the hatch. Minutes later, the hull ruptured and audio communication went silent, according to Discovery. Crews could not reach the bodies for removal for half an hour.

A year-long investigation showed wire malfunctioned over the piping for the urine collection system. The resulting spark in the module’s environment of pure oxygen under high pressure caused the fire, investigators concluded.

Dec. 6, 1957, marked the country’s first attempt to launch a satellite into orbit, and it was not successful. The Vanguard TV3 lost thrust and sank back to the ground two seconds after takeoff, causing its fuel tanks to rupture and explode. The satellite managed to reach 4 feet and survived the disaster, though the rocket was destroyed.