Celestial Versus Terrestrial Travel—An Analysis of Spaceflight Fatalities and Comparison to Other Modes of Transportation

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

With the advent of commercial human spaceflight, it is important to analyze the historical safety of humans traveling to, in, and from space. We break down the fatality rates of human spaceflight and compare them to those of several terrestrial transportation modes. We created a database of human space travel, containing the vehicles, launches, and the total time and distance traveled. For the 4 fatal space missions and 18 fatalities, we determined the fatality rates, calculated by several methods, including rates per trip, person, and distance traveled, stratified by the mission segment affected. Two of the 326 launches did not reach space, and 8 others were suborbital. There have been 1285 person-launches to space; the total time in space is estimated to be 55,939 person-days; and the total distance traveled is approximately 23.5 billion person-miles. One fatal trip occurred on the way to orbit and the other 3 during the return. There has yet to be a fatality in orbit, and there have been none on any space flight since 2003. The per-trip and per-person fatality rates are 1.2% and 1.4%, respectively, but the per mile rate is much lower, depending on the flight segment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1274-1279
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Medicine
Volume133
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)

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