The sacrifices involved when exploring the great beyond are almost incomprehensible by us mere earth-walking mortals. These are the ten most most incredible space badasses known to our world.
10.) Ed White, Gemini 4
Prior to his death during Apollo 1 fire, Edward Higgins White became the first American to venture into space without the protection of a capsule. On that historic spacewalk, White’s spacesuit had become overly stiff and his fingers had come out of their place in his gloves, which meant White was unable to return inside the capsule by using the rehearsed entry method.
Instead of getting into the airlock feet first, White was forced to take the risk of letting air out of his pressurized spacesuit and climb into the airlock head first, upside down.
Suggested By: DennyCraneDennyCraneDennyCrane, Photo Credit: NASA
9.) Boris Volynov, Soyuz 5
After misfired bolts subsequent to retrofire caused aerodynamic and heat shield issues, Boris Volynov’s return to Earth’s atmosphere in his Soyuz 5 spacecraft was far more dangerous than it should’ve been. Upon reentry to Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft descended nose first, causing Volynov to be suspended in-cabin by nothing but harness. When it came time for his parachutes to deploy and slow the spacecraft down for a landing, they were unable to fully do their job, resulting in a touchdown as forceful as a car crash, even breaking Volynov’s teeth. After falling short of the original aim point, Volynov was forced to take shelter at a peasant’s house several kilometers away.
Reader cadeon924 can describe that scene for you.
Just think about it. It’s winter in 1969. You’re having dinner with your family in a small house in the mountains. There’s a knock at the door.
Spaceman, with bloody teeth.
On November 3rd, 1957, the Soviet Union sent Laika, a stray Russian dog, on a one way trip to space with the intention of learning about how living creatures would cope with being launched into orbit. It was because of a lack of technology that Laika would be unable to make the return trip home, but that probably wouldn’t have mattered. Information made public in 2002 by the Russian government stated that within only a few hours, Laika had died from the immense temperatures she had been forced to endure.
Thanks to Laika and the valuable information her flight gathered, engineers were better able to understand the conditions of space travel, and they were better able to prevent various space bound animals and humans down the line from death.
7.) Gordon Cooper, Mercury-Atlas 9
After a computer failure caused a misreading from the gauges on his Mercury spacecraft, Gordon Cooper faced a lack of pretty much any working telemetry gauges, then a loss of all electronic assisted controls. It forced Cooper to do the near-impossible.
To re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, Cooper had to pilot his spacecraft using several manual controls and draw lines on the windows of the Faith 7 spacecraft to stay on-course, all while the carbon dioxide levels in the spacecraft and in his suit continued to rise at an alarming rate. If Cooper had not stayed calm during this catastrophe, there’s a good chance he never would’ve made it back.
Suggested By: Fordson, Photo Credit: NASA
6.) John Aaron, Apollo 12/Apollo 13
John Aaron, the “steely-eyed missile man,” worked in Mission Control as an Electrical, Environmental and Consumables, or EECOM, flight controller. Without him calling the shots on the ground, it’s highly likely that neither the crews of Apollo 12 or Apollo 13 would have made it back to Earth’s soil.
After the Apollo 12 spacecraft was struck by lightning and the onboard control instruments began to go haywire, Aaron noticed similarities between the weird patterns the gauges were displaying and a pattern that Aaron had previously researched. Because he recognized the issue and knew of a fix, Aaron was virtually the only reason that Apollo 12 mission was not aborted within a minute after launch.
Suggested By: papabear, Photo Credit: NASA
5.) The Firefighting Mir Space Station Crew
Dealing with a fire on Earth is one thing, you try your luck with a couple fire extinguishers, and if that doesn’t work, call your fire department and pray for the best. It’s a little bit different in space, when your limited supply of fire extinguishers is your only hope.
In February 1997, a fire broke out in the Mir Space Station, and the six crew members attempted to put out the fire with the only three extinguishers at their disposal. It has been reported that the fire lasted nearly 15 minutes, but the crew was still able to save themselves and most of their space station.
A fire, in space, fueled by a constantly flowing stream of oxygen? No thanks.
Suggested By: KSUENGINEER, Photo Credit: NASA
4.) Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11
While maneuvering around the Apollo 11 spacecraft, a piece of Armstrong’s bulky suit had broken an important switch lever clean off. Without tools or spare parts, the crew was left without a fix, or so they thought. Buzz Aldrin was able to replace the broken lever with his space pen, rendering the switch usable once again. Now that’s innovation.
Suggested By: My X-Type is too a real Jaguar, Photo Credit: NASA
3.) Neil Armstrong, Gemini 8
Though better known as the commander of the first human moon landing or the Apollo 11 mission, that mission wasn’t anywhere near as gnarly as the Gemini 8 mission for astronaut Neil Armstrong.
While docked with a target vehicle the spacecraft entered a spin. Trying to regain control the astronauts managed to briefly stop the spin and undocked from the vehicle before spinning again, but with their craft now having a lower mass the spin became so fast the astronauts were on the verge of blacking out. The pilot in command decided to try shutting down the maneuvering system (turns out one of the nozzles was stuck open) and used the re-entry thruster to stop the spin. They then immediately aborted the mission and safely splashed down.
The pilot who saved the ship was no other than Neil Armstrong, who is better known for a certain later space mission.
Suggested By: As Du Volant, Photo Credit: NASA
2.) Yuri Gagarin, Vostok 1
Could you imagine the butterflies in your stomach as the first human to be launched into space? I couldn’t. Reader As Du Volant can explain this astronaut’s story.
Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1. Prior to the mission launch in 1961 only a few animals had been in space, many of which never came back. Yuri Gagarin was the first human being to sit inside a metal can on top of a rocket and let himself get launched into the massive void of space. If that isn’t heroic I don’t know what is.
And to top it all off, he had to jump out of the spacecraft at 23,000 feet and parachute to the ground.
No idea how he managed to fit in this space capsule as it’s approximately the size of each of his balls.
1.) Vladimir Komarov, Soyuz 1
Though Vladimir Komarov was fully aware that the Soviet government had arranged for his space trip to be completed with an incapable and poorly built spacecraft, he refused to say “no” and reject the mission. Komarov was under the impression that if he denied the mission, then his close friend Yuri Gagarin would’ve been forced to take the call, and he just couldn’t do that to his friend.
Komarov died on his return to Earth after his spacecraft’s parachutes failed to open.
Welcome back to Answers of the Day - our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day’s Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It’s by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
Top Photo Credit: NASA via Getty Images