Space Missions Are Never “Routine”


This past week we had a sad and harsh reminder that when it comes to space exploration, no undertaking can be considered “ordinary,” and success is never guaranteed.

On Friday, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two exploded in California’s Mojave Desert, killing one pilot and badly injuring a second one (Figure 1). This was apparently the result of a device intended to slow down the spaceship, operating too soon.

Figure 1. The explosion of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two shortly after separation from its carrier spacecraft. Credit: AP.

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, the unmanned supply rocket Antares of Orbital Sciences Corporation, was exploded shortly after its launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia (Figure 2). This rocket was carrying cargo to the International Space Station, but when a serious problem developed, it was intentionally detonated prior to impacting the ground.

Figure 2. The explosion of the Antares supply rocket. Credit: Brad Scriber, National Geographic.

We should also remember that of the total of 135 Space Shuttle flights, two ended in major tragedies–with the loss of lives of fourteen astronauts and of Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia. In addition, a number of shuttle missions, such as STS-2, STS-44, and STS-83, were cut —> Read More Here


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