The charred remains of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov on view in an open casket during his state funeral after the crash of the Soyuz 1, 1967.
Welcome to the Soviet Union.
Komarov’s story has always hit me particularly hard. He went up knowing he would likely die to spare his best friend from the same fate. (It’s tragic, they knew his space vehicle had issues, and he was sent anyway.)
“With less than a month to go before the launch, Komarov realized postponement was not an option. He met with Russayev, the now-demoted KGB agent, and said, “I’m not going to make it back from this flight.”
Russayev asked, Why not refuse? According to the authors, Komarov answered: “If I don’t make this flight, they’ll send the backup pilot instead.” That was Yuri Gagarin. Vladimir Komarov couldn’t do that to his friend. “That’s Yura,” the book quotes him saying, “and he’ll die instead of me. We’ve got to take care of him.” Komarov then burst into tears.” (Source)
According to the book by Colin Burgess, Soyuz 1 hit the ground at around 120 miles an hour. Small braking rocket engines …designed to fire moments before touchdown, exploded on impact. The …wreckage erupted into flames, …so fierce that the aluminium outer sheet melted and pooled on the ground. …recovery crews could do little but extract what they could find of Komarov’s charred remains. They did not know the parachutes would get tangled and he could only have become aware of the fatal problem in the very last couple of moments.
No one should have to suffer like that. I hope he passed as easily as possible, it’s hard to imagine such suffering.
(Those guys had massive balls participating in the early space programs when we were figuring things out as we went along.)