Rocket Failure Underscores Dangers of Spaceflight

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Friday, Oct 31, 2014

The apparent failure of its refurbished main engines and the spectacular explosion of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket this week serves as a stark reminder that spaceflight remains an extremely hazardous business.

As rocket components corkscrewed through the Virginia sky at NASA’s Wallops Island launch facility on the evening of October 28, one could not help but remember the late 1950s and early 1960s when American rockets were blowing up with alarming frequency at Cape Canaveral. Witnessing yet another test failure of an early Atlas rocket that would eventually carry astronauts into orbit, the famed Apollo 13 commander James Lovell remarked: “It looked like a quick way to have a short career.”