In the history of spaceflights, around 550 people have already ventured beyond Earth's atmosphere. Surprisingly, despite this huge number, only a handful of people actually died while in space.
In an effort to explore space, various missions and expedition projects have been launched in the past half-century. During this time, about 30 astronauts and cosmonauts died while participating in various procedures related to space missions, according to Astronomy Magazine.
Some of the fatalities include astronauts Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom and Ed White of NASA's Apollo 1 mission. These astronauts died when a spark caused an uncontrollable fire inside their oxygen-filled spacecraft, which was still grounded.
Despite the circumstances surrounding the incident, the fate of Chaffee, Grissom and White wasn't considered death in space.
In reality, despite the high number of astronauts and cosmonauts going to space regularly, only three people actually died in space. These are the cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolski, Vitor Patsayev and Vladislav Volkov of the Soviet Union's Soyuz 11 mission.
This mission took place following the successful launch of Russia's Salyut 1 space station on April 19, 1971. A few days later, Russia launched the crewed Soyuz 10 mission in an attempt to dock with the space station.
Unfortunately, the cosmonauts of Soyuz 10 were not able to enter Salyut 1 due to an issue with an entry hatch. As a result, the cosmonauts returned home aboard their Soyuz 10 spacecraft.
Since Soyuz 10 was unsuccessful, Russia launched another mission to Salyut 1. Unlike its predecessor, the cosmonauts Dobrovolsku, Volkov and Patsayev of Soyuz 11 were able to enter the space station. They stayed there for three weeks, which at that time was the longest record for time spent in space.
After completing their mission on Salyut 1, the three cosmonauts returned home through Soyuz 11 that successfully landed in Kazakhstan. Despite the spacecraft's safe landing, all three cosmonauts inside Soyuz 11 were dead.
"Outwardly, there was no damage whatsoever," Kermin Kerrimov, one of the founders of the Soviet Union's space program previously said about the incident according to Astronomy Magazine.
"[The recovery crew] knocked on the side, but there was no response from within," he continued. "On opening the hatch, they found all three men in their couches, motionless, with dark-blue patches on their faces and trails of blood from noses and ears."
According to the results of the investigation on Soyuz 11, the cosmonauts died of suffocation. Many believe it was caused by a faulty valve that burst open shortly after the spacecraft left the space station. The open valve and the vacuum of space immediately sucked out the air inside the spacecraft, killing all three cosmonauts before they were able to reach Earth.