October 24, 1960 – The first space-related fatalities occur when a rocket explodes at the Soviet Union’s Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan, killing 165 people, including Air Marshal Mitrofan I. Nedelin, the head of Soviet rocket forces. The accident is officially denied until 1990.
July 21, 1961 – USAF Captain Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom’s Mercury capsule sinks in an ocean landing after an explosion blows the escape hatch off prematurely. He swims from the capsule safely.
January 27, 1967 – Three US astronauts are killed by a fire during a rehearsal launch for the US’s Apollo 1 — USAF Lt. Col. Gus Grissom, USAF Lt. Col. Edward Higgins White and USAF Lt. Commander Roger B. Chaffee. The fire causes a 20-month delay in the first manned Apollo flight. It is believed to have been triggered by a spark from faulty electrical wiring.
April 1967 – Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov is killed while returning to ground from a successful Soyuz 1 orbit of Earth when the main parachute fails to open.
February 1969 – The Soviet Union’s N1 Moon booster explodes during its first test flight, killing 91 people on the ground. The accident is not made public until 1995.
April 13, 1970 – The US lunar mission Apollo 13 loses the use of an oxygen tank necessary to supply air and power. The three-man crew successfully uses the lunar module as a lifeboat, circling the Moon and then returning safely to Earth. It is the first in-flight failure in the US space program.
June 1971 – Soviet cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolsky, Victor Patsayev and Vladislav Volkov are found dead in their Soyuz 11 spacecraft after an apparently normal landing.
March 1980 – Fifty-one engineers are killed when a Vostok rocket explodes on the launch pad in the Soviet Union.
April 1981 – The Columbia’s first test launch, in April 1981, is halted in the final seconds of countdown and is delayed for two days because of a software problem. Once it lifts off, everything works but the toilet, which becomes a chronic problem.
September 27, 1983 – A Soviet Soyuz T-10 booster rocket explodes shortly after liftoff. The crew members evacuate using an emergency rocket that parachutes back to Earth.
January 26, 1995 – A Chinese Long March rocket explodes above its launching pad, killing six people and injuring 23 others. The accident is later determined to have been caused by wind shear.
April 8, 1997 – The Space Shuttle Columbia cuts short its mission 12 days ahead of schedule due to equipment problems. One of the shuttle’s fuel cells showed signs of malfunctioning.
June 25, 1997 – During a docking exercise, an unmanned cargo vessel crashes into Mir, disrupting the station’s power supply and partially depressurizing the living quarters. The three crew members, two Russians and an American, are not injured.