In 1960, the Soviet Union, whilst locked in the space race with the USA, was developing an intercontinental ballistic missile known as the R-16. Unfortunately, an incident took place when testing crew accidentally initiated the second stage of the rocket, igniting the first stage, and causing an immense explosion and inferno on the launch pad. This led to those nearest the rocket being burned alive, and in some cases entirely vaporized, while others died from inhalation of the noxious fumes or from serious burns.
This event is just one of many dotted along the history time-line of Space exploration, and serves as a reminder of the potentially dangerous nature of this activity. From a Brazilian point of view, 22nd August 2003 proved to be a black day for the Brazilian Space Agency when a VLS-1 rocket unexpectedly exploded as it stood on the launch pad at the Alcantara Launch Centre in Maranhao, northern Brazil, killing 21 people.
With more and more nations now looking to both Space exploration and satellite launching capabilities, let us hope that we do not see a corresponding rise in industry accidents and fatalities.