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Vladimir Komarov
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    (March 16, 1927-April 24, 1967)
    Born in Moscow, Russia
    Soviet test pilot, aerospace engineer and cosmonaut
    Commanded Voshkod I, the first space mission to carry more than one person into orbit (October 12-13, 1964)
    Commanded Soyuz 1 (April 23-24, 1967)
    Killed during re-entry when a parachute failure caused the re-entry capsule to hit the ground at full speed
    First in-flight fatality of the space race
    One of 14 astronauts commemorated on a plaque left on the Moon by Apollo 15 (1971)
    Despite having the most flight experience, he was passed over for the initial Vostok missions because he was older than the age cutoff of 27 imposed by space program head Sergei Korolev.
    He was temporarily suspended from the cosmonaut program because of an irregular heartbeat (1962-63).
    One wonders if he would have fought so hard to be readmitted to the space program if he had known how it would end for him.
    He reportedly spent his last minutes cursing out the engineers responsible for designing the Soyuz. (Not that he didn't have damn good reasons to.)
    Despite his remains being reduced to an unrecognizable charred lump, his state funeral was open casket.
    He influenced the designs of the Vostok and Voshkod spacecraft.
    He was nicknamed 'the Professor' for helping younger members of the cosmonaut program in academics.
    An inspection of Soyuz 1 revealed 203 structural problems, but no one was willing to call off the mission because Leonid Brezhnev had demanded a triumph in space for the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
    He went on the Soyuz 1 mission despite the risks because the backup pilot who would have flown in his place was his good friend, Yuri Gagarin.

Credit: C. Fishel

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