April 23, 1967 – Soviet Union launches Soyuz 1 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying Cosmonaut Colonel Vladimir M. Komarov. The launch was the first time the Soyuz spacecraft was used, and that mission came on the heels of the American’s loss of the NASA Apollo 1 crew in the on-pad fire at Kennedy Space Center.
The Soyuz 1 mission included a rendezvous with Soyuz 2 and a unique swapping of crew between the spacecraft before returning to Earth. The weather didn’t cooperate, and the Soyuz 2 launch was delayed. Soyuz 1 was experiencing technical difficulties on-orbit, and the mission controllers decided to about the Soyuz 1 mission after only 18 orbits. On April 24 Soyuz 1 reentered and crashed, killing the Cosmonaut Komarov.
Tragically on this day in Space History, we remember the Soviet Space Program’s unwelcome “first” – the world’s first in-flight space tragedy.
After redesign and rework, the Soyuz capsule eventually became one of the workhorses of the Space Race, and is still in use today.
Ad Astra Per Aspera – It is a rough road that leads to the stars.