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Disasters in Space Flight

On January 27, 1967, the three astronauts of the Apollo 4, were doing a test countdown on the launch pad. Gus Grissom was in charge. His crew were Edward H. White, the first American to walk in space, and Roger B. Chaffee, a naval officer going up for the first time. 182 feet below, R. C. A technician Gary Propst was seated in front of a bank of television monitors, listening to the crew radio channel and watching various televisions for important activity. Inside the Apollo 4 there was a metal door with a sharp edge.

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Each time the door was open and shut, it scraped against an environmental control unit ire. The repeated abrasion had exposed two tiny sections of wire. A spark alone would not cause a fire, but just below the cuts in the cable was a length of aluminum tubing, which took a ninety-degree turn. There were hundreds of these turns in the whole capsule. The aluminum tubing carried a glycol cooling fluid, which is not flammable, but when exposed to air it turns to flammable fumes. The capsule was filled with pure oxygen in an effort to allow the astronauts to work more efficiently.

It also turns normally not so flammable items to highly flammable items. Raschel netting that was highly flammable in the pure oxygen environment was near the exposed section of the wires. At 6:31:04 p. m. the Raschel netting burst into an open flame. A second after the netting burst into flames, the first message came over the crew’s radio channel: “Fire,” Grissom said. Two Seconds later, Chaffee said clearly, “We’ve got a fire in the cockpit. ” His tone was businesslike (Murray 191).

There was no camera in the cabin, but a remote control camera, if zoomed in on the porthole could provide a partial, shadowy view of the interior of the space craft. There was a lot of motion, Propst explained, as White seemed to fumble with something and then quickly pull his arms back, then reach out again. Another pair of arms came into view from the left, Grissom’s, as the flames spread from the far left-hand corner of the spacecraft toward the porthole (Murray 192). The crew struggled for about 30 seconds after their suits failed, and then died of asphyxiation, not the heat.

To get out of the capsule astronauts had to remove three separate hatches, atleast 90 seconds was required The IB Saturn rocket contained no fuel, so no chance of fire was really hought of, so there were no fire crews or doctors standing by. Many people were listening to the crew’s radio channel, and would have responded, but were caught off guard and the first mention of fire was not clearly heard by anyone. On January 28, 1986 the space shuttle Challenger was ready to launch. The lead up to the launch had not been without its share of problems. The talk of cold weather, icicles, and brittle and faulty o-rings were the main problems.

It was revealed that deep doubts of some engineers had not been passed on by their superiors to the shuttle director, Mr. Moore. Something was unusual about that morning in Florida: it was uncommonly cold. The night before, the temperature had dropped to twenty-two degrees fahrenheit. Icicles hung from the launch pad, it was said that the icicles could have broken off and damaged the space shuttle’s heat tiles. It had been the coldest day on which a shuttle launch had ever been attempted. Cold weather had made the rubber O-ring seals so brittle that they no longer sealed the joint properly.

People feared a reduction in the efficiency of the O-ring seals on the solid rocket boosters. Level 1 authorities at NASA had received enough information about faulty O-rings by August 1985 that they should have ordered discontinuation of flights. The shuttle rocketed away from the icicle laden launch pad, carrying a New Hampshire school teacher, NASA’s first citizen in space. It was the worst accident in the history of NASA in nearly 25 years. 11:38 a. m. cape time, the main engine ignition followed by clouds of smoke and flame came from the solid fuel rocket boosters.

Unknown to anyone in the cabin or on the ground, there was jet of flame around the giant orange fuel tank coming from the right-hand booster rocket. Seventy-three seconds after lift-off the Challenger suddenly disappeared amid a cataclysmic explosion which ripped the fuel tank from nose to tail (Timothy 441). The explosion occurred as Challenger was 10. 35 miles high and 8. 05 miles downrange from the cape, speeding toward space at 1,977 mph. Lost along with the $1. 2 billion spacecraft were a $100 million satellite that was to have become an important part of NASA’s communications network (Associated Press 217).

Pictures taken revealed that even after the enormous explosion occurred the cockpit remained somewhat intact. Aerodynamic pressure exerted on the human passengers would have killed anyone who survived the explosion. The remains of the shuttle were spread over miles of ocean. Over In comparison, both disasters were preventable. Both disasters had a main explosion or malfunction, but even if there were survivors they would have died because there was no escape. The Challenger disaster was mainly a lot of people wanting to get better jobs and more money, or simply to get on the good ide of someone.

The Apollo 4 had many problems which should have been caught. Apollo 4 had many deficiencies: loose, shoddy wiring, excessive use of combustible materials in spite of a 100 percent oxygen atmosphere, inadequate provisions for rescue, and a three layer, ninety plus second hatch. The Challenger had faulty O-rings, icicles, and bad management which threatened to bring the entire american astronaut program to an end. Over a billion dollars Both disasters could have been prevented if the time, effort, and funding was spent.

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