Two separate space shuttle crashes during test flights late last year provided us with a sharp reminder that even today, more than 50 years after the first man made it into space, travelling outside of the Earth’s atmosphere is still fraught with danger.
While vast resources were invested in human exploration of the solar system in the 1960s and 1970s, in part due to the space race between the United States and Soviet Union, recent years have witnessed a considerable drop in funding. The consequences of this were shown when it was revealed that in the case of one of the crashes last October, the test shuttle had been using engine parts that were manufactured in the Soviet era around 40 years ago.
But despite the risks, there remains much that scientists can learn through space travel, whether it be by piloted or unmanned spacecraft. November’s successful landing of a probe on a comet demonstrated the incredible technological capabilities that we have at our disposal. At the same time, more countries are getting involved in space exploration. China is the only country recently to have completed a mission to the moon, and India is also working on its own program.
In the future, a lot will depend on the amount of resources devoted to space travel if accidents are to be avoided. The following list includes 12 major accidents in the history of space travel.
Despite managing to complete the first spacewalk in history, Alexei Leonov got into real trouble when his suit malfunctioned, swelling up to a point where he was unable to reenter the spacecraft. Although he was able to release some of the pressure, he had extremely impaired movement due to the affects of the bends, a condition that usually impacts divers. The incident caused the crew to miss their reentry timetable, meaning that they landed off course by more than 300 kilometers in a forest. As if they hadn’t survived enough in space, they were compelled to stay in the capsule overnight, due to the presence of wolves and bears in the woods.