5. “Muttnik”, or Laika the Russian Space Dog
Laika is a terrier mix who made it cool for animals to be sent into space. The Space Race was heating up between the Soviet Union and the United States of America and the Soviets were looking to prove that humans could withstand the effects of space launch and zero gravity. To minimize the risk to its cosmonauts, they looked from man to man’s best friend to sit in the cockpit. The mission was a disgrace, and even though Laika’s fate was classified for decades to come, it was discovered that she died within just three hours of launch due to overheating. NASA was appalled by the use of canines in test flights, so they fragged monkeys and apes instead.
4. 1996 Failed Everest Expedition
In 1996, a group of well-to-do adventurers set off to climb Mt Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. What occurred next would set the tone for arguments regarding the weight of life, fame, and the commercialization of Everest. Basically what happened is that even though a life threatening weather system was nearing, many of the climbers on the mountain experienced different degrees of Summit Fever (or the urge to reach the top of their climb no matter what). The thin air gets to climbers’ heads and they continue upward in an almost zombie-like fashion. Many of these men were spurred on by the amount of money they had to spend in order to pursue this once in a lifetime chance. People even passed a dying man on their way up and again on the way down, sparking fierce debate pitting ethics versus pragmatics. A total of eight people died on Everest that day. The failed Everest Expedition of 1996 would go on to be famously chronicled by Jon Krakauer in his book Into Thin Air, one of the surviving climbers on Everest that day. Another climber Krakauer criticized was Anatoli Boukreev, who later released his own version of the story in The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest.
3. January 28, 1986: Challenger
January 28, 1986 was a day of heartbreak for the modern world. It was on this day that the American Space Shuttle Challenger (so named after the famed 19th century British sea vessel that helped chart deep sea trenches) combusted en route to outer space. Just three years before the Berlin Wall came crumbling down, this single day of the Cold War era space race claimed its largest amount of casualties. Crew members Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Christa McAuliffe, and Gregory B. Jarvis all perished during a launch malfunction. It was later determined that a faulty, metallic gasket known as an “O-ring” had been the culprit in this tragedy. Debris from the shuttle would wash up on shore many years later.
2. Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic Expedition
Perhaps it is his exceptionally powerful middle name, but Robert Falcon Scott was a true man’s man. By the time of his failed venture, Scott had built a solid reputation as an explorer. He had already published a book, The Voyage of Discovery (1905), about his successful foray into the Antarctica wild. Perhaps looking to pen a thrilling sequel, Scott enlisted a team and headed back into the great white. This time his mind was set on being the first man to set foot on the South Pole. Their progress went well and before long they arrived at their destination—only to find a Norwegian flag flying proudly. Roald Amundsen and his team had found their way to the South Pole just days earlier. Bitterly disappointed, Scott turned his men around and began a long walk of shame back to base camp. Adding cosmic insult to injury, Scott and the rest of his expedition perished on the return trip.
1. William Bligh, Mutiny on the Bounty
There is an array of failed leaders who have lost control of their crew through the years, but for some reason or another, the mutiny on the Bounty continues to capture imaginations worldwide. Apparently, Bligh was such a tool that most of his crew jumped at the chance of remaining in Tahiti to enjoy an easygoing life on an island paradise. Sent adrift in a lifeboat disgraced, Bligh eventually made it back to England. England wasn’t satisfied with one failed venture to Tahiti and so decided to send the HMS Pandora to apprehend the mutineers. The Pandora did catch fourteen of them, however she ran aground on the way back drowning 4 of the prisoners and 31 of its own crew. Was the vengeance of watching three men get hanged worth it all? Hindsight doubts it.