Did you know that the Soviets space program didn’t only put the first man in space, but also the first women, space station, space rover and had the first (unmanned) soft landing on any body other than earth
The Soviet space program has experienced a number of fatal incidents and failures. The so-called Nedelin catastrophe in 1960 was a disastrous explosion of a fueled rocket being tested on launchpad, killing many technical personnel, aerospace engineers, and technicians working on the project at the time of the explosion.
The first cosmonaut fatality during training occurred on March 23, 1961 when Valentin Bondarenko died in a fire within a low pressure, high oxygen atmosphere.
The Voskhod program was canceled after two manned flights owing to the change of Soviet leadership and nearly fatal ‘close calls’ during the second mission. Had the planned further flights gone ahead they could have given the Soviet space program further ‘firsts’ including a long duration flight of 20 days, a spacewalk by a woman and an untethered spacewalk.
The deaths of Korolyov, Komarov (in the Soyuz 1 crash) and Gagarin (the first human in space who was on a routine fighter jet mission) within two years of each other understandably had substantial negative impact on the Soviet program.
The Soviets continued striving for the first lunar mission with the huge N-1 rocket, which exploded on each of four unmanned tests shortly after launch. The Americans won the race to land men on the moon with Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969.
On April 5, 1975, the second stage of a Soyuz rocket carrying 2 cosmonauts to the Salyut 4 space station malfunctioned, resulting in the first manned launch abort. The cosmonauts were carried several thousand miles downrange and became worried that they would land in China, which the Soviet Union was then having difficult relations with. The capsule hit a mountain, sliding down a slope and almost slid off a cliff; fortunately the parachute lines snagged on trees and kept this from happening. As it was, the two suffered severe injuries and the commander, Lazerev, never flew again.
On March 18, 1980 a Vostok rocket exploded on its launch pad during a fueling operation, killing 48 people.
In August 1981, Kosmos 434, which had been launched in 1971, was about to re-enter. To allay fears that the spacecraft carried nuclear materials, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR assured the Australian government on August 26, 1981 that the satellite was “an experimental lunar cabin”. This was one of the first admissions by the Soviet Union that it had ever engaged in a manned lunar spaceflight program.
In September 1983, a Soyuz rocket being launched to carry cosmonauts to the Salyut 7 space station exploded on the pad, causing the Soyuz capsule’s abort system to engage, saving the two cosmonauts on board.