Top 5 Facts: Re-entry disasters

  • Soyuz 1

Lone cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov perished in 1967 when the parachutes of Soyuz 1 tangled during re-entry following a multitude of problems in orbit.

  • Soyuz 5

In 1969 when a module failed to separate, Boris Volynov’s spacecraft re-entered in a spinning ball of fire until it righted itself and crash landed, with Volynov suffering only broken teeth.

  • Soyuz 11

In 1971 the Russian Soyuz 11 spacecraft failed to depressurise properly in orbit, killing all three crew members prior to re-entry, the only astronauts to ever die in space.

  • Columbia

In 2003 a piece of foam pierced the left wing of Space Shuttle Columbia during launch. Atmospheric gases tore it apart during re-entry, killing the crew of seven.

  • Genesis

The sample return capsule of NASA’s unmanned Genesis spacecraft – containing a sample of solar wind – failed to deploy its parachutes during re-entry in 2004 and crashed in the Utah desert.