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STAR CITY, Russia — This place was once no place, a secret military base northeast of Moscow that did not show up on maps. The Soviet Union trained its astronauts here to fight on the highest battlefield of the cold war: space.
Yet these days, Star City is the place for America’s hard-won orbital partnership with Russia, where astronauts train to fly aboard Soyuz spacecraft. And in two years Star City will be the only place to send astronauts from any nation to the International Space Station.
The gap is coming: from 2010, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shuts down the space shuttle program, to 2015, when the next generation of American spacecraft is scheduled to arrive, NASA expects to have no human flight capacity and will depend on Russia to get to the $100 billion station, buying seats on Soyuz craft as space tourists do.
(In the statistics below, 'astronaut' is applied to all space travellers to avoid the use of 'astronaut/cosmonaut'.)
The history of space exploration has been marred by a number of tragedies that resulted in the deaths of the astronauts or ground crew. As of 2007, in-flight accidents have killed 19 astronauts, training accidents have claimed 11 astronauts, and launchpad accidents have killed at least 71 ground personnel.
About two percent of the manned launch/reentry attempts have killed their crew, with Soyuz and the Shuttle having almost the same death percentage rates. Except for the X-15 (which is a suborbital rocket plane), other launchers have not launched sufficiently often for reasonable safety comparisons to be made.
About five percent of the people that have been launched have died doing so (because astronauts often launch more than once). As of November 2004, 439 individuals have flown on spaceflights: Russia/Soviet Union (96), USA (277), others (66). Twenty-two have died while in a spacecraft: three on Apollo 1, one on Soyuz 1, one on X-15-3, three on Soyuz 11, seven on Challenger, and seven on Columbia. By space program, 18 NASA astronauts (4.1%) and four Russian cosmonauts (0.9% of all the people launched) died while in a spacecraft.
If Apollo 1 and X-15-3 are included as spaceflights, five percent or 22 of 439 have died on spaceflights. This includes Roger Chaffee (who never flew in space) and Michael J. Adams (who reached space by the U.S. definition but not the international definition, see below) in the spaceflight total and Grissom, White, Chaffee (the crew of Apollo 1) and Adams in the killed total.
If Apollo 1 and the X-15-3 are excluded, four percent or 18 of 437 have died while on a spaceflight. This excludes Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger Chaffee, and Michael J. Adams from the killed total and Chaffee and Adams from the spaceflight total.
Soyuz accidents have claimed the lives of four, versus fourteen for Shuttle accidents (however, the maximum capacity of the Shuttle is larger than that of the Soyuz, resulting in a higher death toll per incident). No deaths have occurred on Soyuz missions since 1971, and none with the current design of the Soyuz. Including the early Soyuz design, the average deaths per launched crew member on Soyuz are currently under two percent. However, there have also been several serious injuries, and some other incidents in which crews nearly died.
NASA astronauts who have lost their lives in the line of duty are memorialized at the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Florida. Cosmonauts who have died in the line of duty under the auspices of the Soviet Union were generally honored by burial at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Moscow. It is unknown whether this remains tradition for Russia, since the Kremlin Wall Necropolis was largely a Communist honor and no cosmonauts have died in action since the Soviet Union fell.
 In-flight accidents
There have been five fatal in-flight accidents. In each case all crew were killed. To date, there has never been an incident where an individual member of any crew has died during a mission.
* 1967 April 24: parachute failure: Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov died on board Soyuz 1. His one-day mission had been plagued by a series of mishaps with the new type of spacecraft, which culminated in the capsule's parachute not opening properly after reentry. Komarov was killed when the capsule hit the ground.
* 1967 November 15: control failure: Michael J. Adams died while piloting a suborbital spaceflight in a rocket plane. Major Adams was a U.S. Air Force pilot in the NASA/USAF X-15 program. During X-15 Flight 191, his seventh flight, the plane first had an electrical problem and then developed control problems at the apogee of its flight. The pilot may also have become disoriented. During reentry from a 266,000 ft (50.4 mile, 81.1 km) apogee, the X-15 yawed sideways out of control and went into a spin at a speed of Mach 5, from which the pilot never recovered. Excessive acceleration led to the X-15 breaking up in flight at about 65,000 feet (19.8 km)). Adams was posthumously awarded astronaut wings as his flight had passed an altitude of 50 miles (80.5 km) (the U.S. definition of space); however, whether or not the incident technically counts as a "spaceflight accident" can be disputed, given that the flight fell short of the internationally recognized 100 km (62.1 mi) boundary of space.
* 1971 June 30: crew exposed to vacuum of space : The crew of Soyuz 11, Georgi Dobrovolski, Viktor Patsayev and Vladislav Volkov, were killed after undocking from space station Salyut 1 after a three-week stay. A valve on their spacecraft had accidentally opened when the service module separated, letting their air leak out into space. The capsule reentered and landed normally, and their deaths were only discovered when it was opened by the recovery team. Technically the only fatalities in space (above 100km).
* 1986 January 28: structural failure after lift-off: The first U.S. multiple in-flight fatalities. The Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed 73 seconds after lift-off on STS-51-L. Analysis of the accident showed that a faulty O-ring seal had allowed hot gases from the shuttle solid rocket booster (SRB) to weaken the external propellant tank, and also the strut that held the booster to the tank. The tank aft region failed, causing it to begin disintegrating. The SRB strut also failed, causing the SRB to rotate inward and expedite tank breakup. Challenger was thrown sideways into the Mach 1.8 windstream causing it to break up in midair with the loss of all seven crew members aboard: Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Michael J. Smith, and Dick Scobee. NASA investigators determined they may have survived during the spacecraft disintigration, while possibly unconscious from hypoxia; at least some of them tried to protect themselves by activating their emergency oxygen. Any survivors of the breakup were killed, however, when the largely intact cockpit hit the water at 200 mph (320 km/h). See Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
* 2003 February 1: spacecraft broke apart on re-entry: The Space Shuttle Columbia was lost as it reentered after a two-week mission, STS-107. Damage to the shuttle's thermal protection system (TPS) led to structural failure in the shuttle's left wing and, ultimately, the spacecraft breaking apart. Investigations after the tragedy revealed the damage to the reinforced carbon-carbon leading edge wing panel had resulted from a piece of insulation foam breaking away from the external tank during the launch and hitting shuttle's wing. Rick D. Husband, William McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel B. Clark, and Ilan Ramon were killed. See Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.