Space travel is still pretty new, but it hasn't escaped the realm of tragedy. Space-related deaths have occurred on the ground and in the air.
- Jan. 27, Apollo 1: a fire aboard the space capsule on the ground at Cape Kennedy, Fla., killed astronauts Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger Chaffee.
- April 23–24, Soyuz 1: Vladimir M. Komarov was killed when his craft crashed after its parachute lines, released at 23,000 ft for reentry, became snarled.
- June 6–30, Soyuz 11: 3 cosmonauts, Georgi T. Dolrovolsky, Vladislav N. Volkov, and Viktor I. Patsayev, found dead in the craft after its automatic landing. Apparent cause of death was loss of pressurization in the space craft during reentry into Earth's atmosphere.
- March 18, USSR: a Vostok rocket exploded on its launch pad while being refueled, killing 50 at the Plesetsk Space Center.
- Jan. 28, Challenger Space Shuttle: exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all 7 crew members. They were: Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. A booster leak ignited the fuel, causing the explosion.
- Feb. 1, Columbia Space Shuttle: broke up on reentering Earth's atmosphere on its way to Kennedy Space Center, killing all 7 crew members. They were: Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon. Foam insulation fell from the shuttle during launch, damaging the left wing. On reentry, hot gases entered the wing, leading to the disintegration of the shuttle.
See also Space Shuttle Timeline and Profiles of the Columbia Astronauts