Soyuz 1

In the attempt to get yet another space spectacular, Soyuz 1 was launched on April 23, 1967 with veteran cosmonaut Colonel Vladimir Komarov.

The mission was the first Soyuz test mission to carry crew (there were two previous successful unmanned Soyuz test flights). However just 24 hours after the launch, the mission was terminated due to the failure of one of the spacecraft's two solar arrays to deploy.

After what appeared to be a nominal reentry, the main parachute of the Soyuz descent module failed to open properly leaving the descent module slowing spinning.

When Komarov deployed the backup chute, the slow spin apparently caused the backup chute to become entangled with the partially deployed main chute. Komarov was killed when the descent module capsule slammed into the Kazakstan steppes at more than 400 miles per hour. Col. Komarov was the first cosmonaut (or astronaut) to die while conducting a mission.

Like the American Apollo program, which previously suffered the deaths of three astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire, the Soyuz program was grounded for 18 months. However, uncrewed developmental flights continued during this downtime.

In all, four uncrewed flights were flown before the Soviets resumed manned flights with Soyuz 2 and 3. Soyuz 2 served as a docking target for Soyuz 3 piloted by Colonel G. Beregovoi.