A Modest Proposal: Space Disasters Week

By Christopher Mills

Ever since I started getting interested in historical anniversaries I was struck by the fact that the Challenger shuttle disaster in 1986 happened nineteen years and one day after the Apollo I fire in 1967 that killed Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Just a few years after that I noticed that the shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry on the 1st of February, 2003, following the anniversary of the other two accidents by only a few days. Since then, I have toyed with the idea of having a week set aside to commemorate the victims of these three accidents. This year (2014) the timing is quite appropriate, as Monday (the 27th of January) is the 47th anniversary of the Apollo I fire, Tuesday (which is today) is the 28th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, and Saturday (February the 1st) will be the 11th anniversary of the Columbia crash.

The two Soviet/Russian space disasters I would like to commemorate, unfortunately, don't fit into this week at all, since they happened in April and June. Nonetheless, in the spirt of international harmony and the brotherhood of man (or sisterhood of woman), I would like to add the names of the cosmonauts who perished in these disasters to the list of our own astronauts whose memories we cherish.

In some cases there are multiple Find A Grave memorials for the individuals memorialized here. The remains of some of the astronauts have been cremated and/or scattered, and in some of these cases I have linked to a Find A Grave memorial that has a marker, or cenotaph, at a specific location, rather than the memorial which simply shows the person as having been cremated.

There are three specific cemeteries or memorial sites which have more than their fair share of markers for astronauts and/or cosmonauts. Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia contains memorials for both Challenger and Columbia, as well as markers for many of the individual astronauts who died. The Kremlin Wall in Moscow contains the remains of all four of their cosmonauts who died in in-flight accidents, as well as Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and Sergei Korolev, the head of the team which designed the Soviet rockets which launched the first cosmonauts into space. The International Forest of Friendship memorial in Atchison, Kansas, contains cenotaphs for a number of astronauts, although I do not believe it has any astronaut "burials", per se.

I know there are some nit-pickers out there who will claim that the Apollo I fire was not a "space disaster" since it happened on the ground. Well, too bad! It was a dry run for a launch that was happening the next month, it was a functional spacecraft with fully trained astronauts that was part of a space program. Ergo, I consider it to be a space disaster.

Apollo I - 27 January 1967

Roger Chaffee - Find A Grave memorial 186
Gus Grissom - Memorial 422
Ed White - Memorial 1093

Soyuz I - 24 April 1967

Vladimir Komarov - Memorial 8713804

Soyuz 11 - 30 June 1971

Georgi Dobrovolski - Memorial 8713882
Viktor Patsayev - Memorial 8713918
Vladislav Volkov - Memorial 8713933

Challenger STS-51L - 28 January 1986

Gregory Jarvis - Memorial 13123
Sharon Christa McAuliffe - Memorial 1601
Ronald McNair - Memorial 7693
(I believe there is an error on this memorial for Ron McNair, it shows this as the former burial location. I believe his remains are still buried here. After the first set of remains were turned over to family members in April 1986, more remains were recovered later and interred within the Challenger memorial at Arlington. I believe in the case of this memorial that someone misinterpreted the second memorial as a movement of buried remains when in reality it was simply a burial of additional remains which were not individually identified. If I am wrong about this I would love for someone to set me straight who knows more about this than I do.
Ellison Onizuka - Memorial 2428
Judith Resnik - Memorial 6353983
Francis "Dick" Scobee - Memorial 1678
Michael Smith - Memorial 1918

Columbia STS-107 - 1 February 2003

Michael Anderson - Memorial 7135889
David Brown - Memorial 7135419
Kalpana Chawla - Memorial 7135439
Laurel Clark - Memorial 7135846
Rick Husband - Memorial 7135753
William McCool - Memorial 34729148
Ilan Ramon - Memorial 7135431

Wikipedia article on Space disasters

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