44 years ago today, the Apollo 1 capsule caught fire during a test on the ground and killed Gus Grissom, Edward White, Roger Chaffee.
On Grissom's first spaceflight, the escape hatch blew unexpectedly and caused trouble with his rescue; on his second, similar worries kept the astronauts in their capsule for quite a while waiting for pickup. The redesigned hatch in the Apollo capsule avoided this problem, but took 5 minutes to open while the fire seems to have disabled the astronauts within 17 seconds. That wasn't the only problem, but the history of it struck me.
25 years ago tomorrow, Challenger disintegrated on takeoff, killing Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Michael J. Smith, Francis Scobee, and Ronald McNair, after an O-ring failure allowed gases to escape from the booster rocket. Engineers were all over the problem; NASA management didn't listen. There was great wrath in the media and promises from NASA to do better.
8 years ago Tuesday, Columbia disintegrated on reentry, killing David Brown, Laurel Clark, Michael Anderson, Ilan Ramon, Rick Husband, Kalpana Chawla, and William McCool, after a chunk of foam knocked loose on takeoff broke off some of the insulating tiles used to keep heat out on reentry. Engineers were all over the problem; NASA management didn't listen. There was great wrath in the media and promises from NASA to do better.