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TABLE OF CONTENTS
First to die for space: Gus Grissom, Edward H. White 2nd and Roger B. Chaffee were killed January 27, 1967, in a fire as they sat in an Apollo capsule on the launch-pad during a ground test at Cape Canaveral. There was a rush to beat the Russians to the Moon by the end of the 1960s. The first manned test of the powerful new Saturn 1B rocket was to be February 21, but it didn't happen. On January 27, 25 days before their scheduled lift-off, Grissom, White and Chaffee were practicing in Apollo 204 during a simulated countdown on the launch pad when fire broke out in the capsule. The Apollo 204 capsule later was renamed Apollo 1.
First to die landing: Vladimir Komarov died April 24, 1967, as his Soyuz 1 capsule crashed on the central-Asian plain. He had been launched on April 23 for 17 orbits of Earth in a 26 hour 40 minute flight. The flight seemed successful, until it crashed after re-entry. A parachute to slow the capsule opened, but lines became snarled at 23,000 feet altitude. The parachute twisted and deflated. Soyuz 1 hit the ground at 200 miles per hour and burst into flames.
First to die at re-entry: Georgi T. Dobrovolsky, Vladislav N. Volkov and Viktor I. Patsayev died June 30, 1971. They had been launched to orbit June 6 in Soyuz 11 for a visit to the new Salyut 1 space station where they stayed a record 23 days. But, they were not wearing spacesuits on the flight home as air escaped the Soyuz 11 capsule during re-entry. They were found dead when the capsule was opened on the ground after an automatic landing.
First to die enroute to space: Francis R. "Dick" Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka, Ronald E. McNair, Gregory B. Jarvis and schoolteacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe were killed when shuttle Challenger exploded January 28, 1986.
First cosmonaut brain tumor: Ukrainian cosmonaut Anatoly Levchenko, 47, training to fly the Soviet space shuttle, died of a brain tumor in August 1988, eight months after returning to Earth from an eight-day stay at Mir station. Levchenko had been a cosmonaut since 1981, but was on his first spaceflight when he blasted off December 21, 1987. After returning home December 29, the tumor turned up in 1988. An operation by Moscow doctors during the summer of 1988 was unsuccessful.
First Americans to die landing: Seven astronauts died when shuttle Columbia broke apart 200,000 feet over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003, as it descended from orbit. Aboard the shuttle were commander Rick D. Husband; pilot William C. McCool; payload commander Michael P. Anderson; mission specialists David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, and Laurel Clark; and Israel's first astronaut, payload specialist Ilan Ramon. more>>
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