21 February 1961: Final training begins for Mercury 7 astronauts. Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and John Glenn are selected for the initial flights. Left-to-Right: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.
The aircraft in the photograph is a Convair F-106B-75-CO Delta Dart, 59-0158, a two-place supersonic interceptor trainer.
28 January 1986, 11:38:00 a.m. (EST): The Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-99) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Mission STS-51L.
At liftoff, an O-ring seal between segments of the right Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) began leaking. Superheated exhaust gases breached the seal and began to burn laterally. The venting rocket exhaust burned through the SRB attachment strut and into the liquid hydrogen tank in the lower section of the External Tank. The aft portion of the liquid hydrogen tank failed and drove the tank vertically into the liquid oxygen tank. Both tanks ruptured and the propellants detonated.
1 minute, 13 seconds after liftoff, Challenger was accelerating through Mach 1.62 (1,069 miles per hour, 1,720 kilometers per hour) at approximately 46,000 feet (14,020 meters) when the explosion of the external tank caused the space shuttle to suddenly veer away from its flight path. Aerodynamic forces subjected the shuttle to forces far beyond its design limits and it was torn apart.
The crew cabin, with its seven astronauts aboard, broke away from the disintegrating shuttle assembly and continued upward for another 25 seconds to approximately 65,000 feet (19,080 meters), then began a long fall to the ocean below.
2 minutes 45 seconds after the explosion, the cabin impacted the surface of the Atlantic Ocean at 207 miles per hour (333 kilometers per hour). The entire crew was killed.
I watched this terrible tragedy as it happened, live on television. I will never forget.
27 January 1967: During a “plugs out” test of the Apollo 1 capsule, two weeks ahead of the scheduled launch of the AS-204 Saturn 1B—the first manned Apollo Program space flight—a fire broke out in the pressurized pure oxygen environment and very quickly involved the entire interior.
The pressure rapidly built to 29 pounds per square inch (200 kPa) and 17 seconds later, at 23:31:19 UTC, the capsule ruptured.
The three astronauts inside, Lieutenant Colonel Virgil I. Grissom, United States Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. White II, United States Air Force, and Lieutenant Commander Roger B. Chaffee, United States Navy, were killed.
AD ASTRA PER ASPERA
NASA has a detailed summary of the accident and investigation at:
16 January 2003, 15:39:00 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Columbia (OV-102) was America’s first space shuttle. This would be her final flight.
81.7 seconds after launch, Columbia was at approximately 66,000 feet (20,100 meters) altitude and 12.5 miles (20.1 kilometers) down range, accelerating through Mach 2.46 (1,623 miles per hour, or 2,612 kilometers per hour). Several pieces of insulating foam broke off of the external fuel tank (what NASA referred to as “foam shedding”) and struck the leading edge and underside of Columbia‘s left wing.
It is believed that at least one of these pieces of foam punctured a hole in the wing’s surface, estimated to be 6 inches × 10 inches (15 × 25 centimeters).
When Columbia re-entered on 1 February 2003, the damage would cause the shuttle to disintegrate. The entire crew would be lost.
27 December 1968 15:51:42 UTC, T plus 147:00:42.0: Apollo 8 splashes down in the Pacific Ocean south of the Hawaiian Islands, within 5,000 yards (4,572 meters) of the recovery ship USS Yorktown (CVS-10). The spacecraft arrived before sunrise, landing in 10-foot (3-meter) swells. The parachutes dragged the capsule and left it floating upside down. The inflatable pontoons righted it after about six minutes.
The three astronauts, Frank F. Borman II, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders, were hoisted aboard a Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King helicopter, Bu. No. 152711, and flown to the aircraft carrier.
Apollo 8 was the first manned space mission to leave Earth orbit and to travel to another planetary body. It proved all of the space flight techniques that would be required for the upcoming Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.
Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King 66, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number 152711, assigned to HS-4 (“Black Knights”) was the primary recovery helicopter for Apollo 8, Apollo 10, Apollo 11, Apollo 12 and Apollo 13. It was lost at sea off NALF Imperial Beach, California, 4 June 1975. One crewman was killed.