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Vladimir M. Komarov

the first man to die during a space flight

Vladimir Komarov

Vladimir M. Komarov first went into space on October 12, 1964, as one of three cosmonauts aboard Voskhod I. He spent the next two years working in various capacities for the Russian space program before being chosen for a mission that was supposed to include the docking of two manned space vehicles and the transfer of crewmen from one capsule to the other.

Many in the Soviet space program, including Komarov, had serious misgivings about the reliability and safety of the Soyuz spacecraft, but the Soviet leadership was determined to get Russia back into space. According to stories released years after the event, Komarov knew his chances of surviving his second mission were slim, but he chose to take the risk rather than "pass it on" to his backup, Russian space hero Yuri Gagarin.

Launched at 3:35 a.m. Moscow time on April 23, Soyuz I began having problems almost immediately upon reaching orbit -- the solar panels failed to deploy fully, the navigation and orientation systems proved faulty, communications were spotty, etc. The problems forced ground controllers to abort Komarov's mission early, and attempts to bring him back to Earth began at 2:56 a.m. on April 24. The first re-entry attempt had to be aborted due to the spacecraft's faulty orientation system. By the time the spacecraft had finally re-entered Earth's atmosphere and the retro rocket had fired, at about 5:59 a.m., Komarov knew his "prophecy" was correct (according to radio transmissions made public many years later). According to eyewitnesses on the ground, the Soyuz parachutes that were supposed to slow the craft down never opened properly. The spacecraft was virtually obliterated by its impact with the Earth.

The only known photograph of Komarov's crash.
Komarov's space capsule after the crash

Valentina Komarov kisses a photo of her late husband at his official state funeral in Moscow's Red Square, on April 26.
Komarov's widow at his official state funeral

National Public Radio
Space Safety Magazine

Yuri Gagarin

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This page was last updated on 02/16/2018.