Apollo 13 and Other Famous Failed Space Missions

Post by:
11 Jun 10

Apollo 13 - Out on Blu-ray - 14th June 2o10

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the historic space mission, and the 15th anniversary of the Academy Award®-winning film, APOLLO 13 is being released by Universal Pictures for the first time ever on Blu-ray on Monday (14th June 2o10).

Less than a year after the world marvelled at man’s first moon walk, the American public thought of the April 1970 Apollo 13 moon mission as just another ‘routine’ space flight. But soon that would change… After hearing four little words uttered by spacecraft commander Jim Lovell (brilliantly played by Tom Hanks in the movie) form a sentence, creating the greatest understatement of mankind… “Houston, we have a problem”.

Stranded 205,000 miles from home in a crippled spacecraft, Lovell, and two other astronauts, Jack Swigert (played by Kevin Bacon) and Fred Haise (played by Bill Paxton), fought a desperate battle to survive, while mission control’s heroic ground crew raced against time, and some very long odds, to bring them home.

Apollo 13 unfortunately hasn’t been the only hitch on the race into space. This inspired us to take a look back at some of the other brave souls that have risked everything to see what lies beyond our world.

Apollo 1

Apollo 1 – Date: January 27, 1967

Mission: Apollo 1 was the first planned piloted space mission of the Apollo program. The crew, Command Pilot Gus Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger Chaffee, were all killed due to a fire at Pad 34 during takeoff.  The name Apollo 1 was officially assigned in commemoration of the crew.

Soyuz 1 (Soviet space program) – Date: April 23, 1967

It wasn’t just the US that suffered tragedy during the space race. Soviet Commander Vladimir Komarov was killed when the spacecraft crashed during its return to Earth after a mission plagued with mechanical problem.

Apollo 13

Apollo 13 – Date: April 11, 1970

Apollo 13 was the third Apollo mission intended to land on the Moon, but an oxygen tank rupture disabled the command spacecraft. This was a successful failure as the crew, commander James A. Lovell, command module pilot John L Swigert and lunar module pilot, Fred W. Haise all survived.

Soyuz 11 (Soviet space program) – Date: June 30, 1971

Soyuz 11 was the first successful visit to the world’s first space station, Salyut. The mission ended in tragedy when the crew capsule depressurised during preparations for re-entry, killing the three crew members on board- Vladislav Volkov, Georgi Dobrovolski, and Viktor Patsayev

Challenger's Crew

Space Shuttle Challenger – Date:  January 28, 1986

This was really the first space tragedy I personally remember. Being only 11 at the time, I was just sat at home watching cartoons when they cut into the program to go to the BBC newsroom. I remember watching, just stunned, as they showed the American space shuttle, Challenger, exploding apart 73 seconds after takeoff.  The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida, United States, at 11:39 a.m. (EST).

The explosion killed all 7 astronauts onboard – The five men and two women – including the first teacher in space – Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuke, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis and Judith Resnik.

Mars Polar Lander – Date: September 23, 1999

On a rather lighter note, NASA lost a $125 million Mars orbiter, after an embarrassing mix-up over metric and imperial measurements… I’m guessing shortly after that, some one had a very bad CV day…

Columbia's Crew

Space Shuttle Columbia – Date: February 1, 2003

The most recent tragedy in the space programme happened in 2003, when Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas, United States during re-try into the Earth’s atmosphere, and lost all seven crew members.

The explosion of Columbia was a result of damage created during launch when a piece of foam insulation (the size of a small briefcase) broke off the external tank.

Crew members were commander Rick D. Husbend, pilot William C. McCool, payload commander Michael P. Anderson, payload specialist Ilan Ramon, mission specialist Kalpana, mission specialist David M. Brown and mission specialist Laurel Clark.

Despite these tragic events, we have the resolve to continue manned (and womanned) space exploration. Even now there are  tests running on the effect of long term space travel, in the hope that we will one day manage to travel further than our own moon.

With a bit of luck (and hopefully within my lifetime) we’ll see a crew make it to Mars, and who knows, maybe even further.