That time the US nuked Greenland

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On 21 January 1968, an aircraft accident (sometimes known as the Thule affair or Thule accident  involving a United States Air Force (USAF) B-52 bomber occurred near Thule Air Base in the Danish territory of Greenland.

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The aircraft was carrying four hydrogen bombs on a Cold War “Chrome Dome” alert mission over Baffin Bay when a cabin fire forced the crew to abandon the aircraft before they could carry out an emergency landing at Thule Air Base. Six crew members ejected safely, but one who did not have an ejection seat was killed while trying to bail out. The bomber crashed onto sea ice in North Star Bay, Greenland, causing the conventional explosives aboard to detonate and the nuclear payload to rupture and disperse, which resulted in radioactive contamination.

The United States and Denmark launched an intensive clean-up and recovery operation, but the secondary stage of one of the nuclear weapons could not be accounted for after the operation completed. USAF Strategic Air Command “Chrome Dome” operations were discontinued immediately after the accident, which highlighted the safety and political risks of the missions. Safety procedures were reviewed and more stable explosives were developed for use in nuclear weapons.

In 1995, a political scandal resulted in Denmark after a report revealed the government had given tacit permission for nuclear weapons to be located in Greenland, in contravention of Denmark’s 1957 nuclear-free zone policy. Workers involved in the clean-up program have been campaigning for compensation for radiation-related illnesses they experienced in the years after the accident.

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The space flight that didn’t happen- The forgotten story of Apollo 1

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On January 27 1967, U.S. astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died in a fire aboard the Apollo 1 spacecraft during a launch simulation at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

The Apollo program changed forever , when a flash fire swept through the Apollo 1 command module during a launch rehearsal test. The three men inside perished despite the best efforts of the ground crew. It would take more than 18 months, and extensive redesigns, before NASA sent more men into space.

The launch simulation on January 27, 1967, on pad 34, was a “plugs-out” test to determine whether the spacecraft would operate nominally on (simulated) internal power while detached from all cables and umbilicals.

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Passing this test was essential to making the February 21 launch date. The test was considered non-hazardous because neither the launch vehicle nor the spacecraft was loaded with fuel or cryogenics, and all pyrotechnic systems (explosive bolts) were disabled

At 1:00 pm EST (1800 GMT) on January 27, first Grissom, then Chaffee, and White entered the Command Module fully pressure-suited, and were strapped into their seats and hooked up to the spacecraft’s oxygen and communication systems. Grissom immediately noticed a strange odor in the air circulating through his suit which he compared to “sour buttermilk”, and the simulated countdown was held at 1:20 pm, while air samples were taken. No cause of the odor could be found, and the countdown was resumed at 2:42 pm. The accident investigation found this odor not to be related to the fire.

Three minutes after the count was resumed, the hatch installation was started. The hatch consisted of three parts: a removable inner hatch, which stayed inside the cabin; a hinged outer hatch, which was part of the spacecraft’s heat shield; and an outer hatch cover, which was part of the boost protective cover enveloping the entire Command Module to protect it from aerodynamic heating during launch, and from launch escape rocket exhaust in the event of a launch abort. The boost hatch cover was partially, but not fully, latched in place because the flexible boost protective cover was slightly distorted by some cabling run under it to provide the simulated internal power. (The spacecraft’s fuel cell reactants were not loaded for this test.) After the hatches were sealed, the air in the cabin was replaced with pure oxygen at 16.7 psi (115 kPa), 2 psi (14 kPa) higher than atmospheric pressure.

The Apollo 1 crew commander, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, was an Air Force veteran of the Korean War. He was chosen was among NASA’s first group of seven astronauts, the Mercury Seven. Grissom was America’s second person in space in 1961. On that mission, Mercury’s Liberty Bell 7, the hatch door blew for unknown reasons upon splashdown. Grissom ended up in the water and was rescued by a helicopter (which at first tried, in vain, to pick up the spacecraft; the spacecraft was later pulled from the ocean floor in 1999).

Some in the Astronaut Office were skeptical that Grissom’s reputation would recover (many believed Grissom blew the hatch; he swore he didn’t). However, Grissom successfully commanded the first Gemini flight, Gemini 3, and was selected to do the same for Apollo.

Fellow spaceflight veteran Ed White, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, was the first American to make a spacewalk, on Gemini 4 in 1965. The images of him soaring in space for 23 minutes are still frequently seen today; it is considered one of history’s most memorable spacewalks.

Roger Chaffee was a seasoned Navy lieutenant commander who joined the program in 1963. Although a rookie in space, he had spent years supporting the Gemini program, most publicly as CapCom on Gemini 4. Now getting a chance to fly after five years in the program, he said, “I think it will be a lot of fun.”

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Every astronaut in the Apollo program had flight experience, and many were test pilots. They were used to seeing machines under development and dealing with delays, and assessing the airplanes’ readiness for flight. In the view of many of these astronauts, the Apollo command module just wasn’t ready yet. Engineering changes were still in progress as NASA prepared for the countdown test.

On his last visit home in Texas, Jan. 22, 1967, Grissom grabbed a lemon off a citrus tree in the backyard. His wife, Betty, asked what he was going to do with it. “I’m going to hang it on that spacecraft,” he answered as he kissed her goodbye. He hung it on the flight simulator after he arrived at the Cape.

The morning of the test, the crew suited up and detected a foul odor in the breathing oxygen, which took about an hour to fix. Then the communications system acted up. Shouting through the noise, Grissom vented: “How are we going to get to the moon if we can’t talk between two or three buildings?”

With communications problems dragging on, the practice countdown was held. Then at 6:31 p.m. came a frightening word from the spacecraft: “Fire.”

Deke Slayton, who oversaw crew selections at NASA and was present for the test, could see white flames in a closed-circuit television monitor pointing toward the spacecraft. The crew struggled to get out. Technicians raced to the scene, trying to fight the fire with extinguishers amid faulty breathing masks. [Video: Apollo 1 Remembered – Report from the Archives]

At last, the door was open, but it was too late.

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I am leaving on a jet plane and I won’t be back again.

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Traveling by plane is still the safest way to travel, well at least if you’re not a musicians.

A disproportionate of singers and musicians over the last few decades, if you’d go by their track records you’d never board a plane again.

Since the list is quite extensive I will focus on the lesser known or forgotten ones.

Passion Fruit

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On November 24, 2001, the group was on board Crossair Flight 3597 from Berlin to Zurich when it crashed into a wooded range of hills 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) short of the runway on approach towards Zurich International Airport, near the town of Bassersdorf. Maria Serrano-Serrano and Nathaly van het Ende died along with former La Bouche vocalist Melanie Thornton, who was also on the plane, while Debby St. Maarten survived with serious injuries along with eight other people.

In December 2001, Passion Fruit’s management decided to donate all the proceeds from their single “I’m Dreaming of . . . A Winter Wonderland” to the victims and survivors of the crash.

Patsy Cline

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The immensely popular country singer had sold millions of records with songs like “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces.” She was 30 when a Piper Comanche carrying her home from a benefit concert crashed in 1963, 90 miles from Nashville.

Lynyrd Skynyrd

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Following a performance at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, South Carolina, on October 20, 1977, the band boarded a chartered Convair CV-240 bound for Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where they were scheduled to appear at LSU the following night. Due to a faulty engine, the airplane ran low on fuel and the pilots were diverted to the McComb-Pike County Airport. After running out of fuel they attempted an emergency landing before crashing in a heavily forested area five miles northeast of Gillsburg, Mississippi.Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, along with backup singer Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray were killed on impact; other band members (Collins, Rossington, Wilkeson, Powell, Pyle, and Hawkins), tour manager Ron Eckerman, and several road crew suffered serious injuries.

Otis Redding

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The mesmerizing soul singer of “Try a Little Tenderness” and “Respect” was flying between Nashville and Madison, Wis., when his plane went down in bad weather in 1967. Three days earlier, he had recorded “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” which went on to be his biggest hit.

Jim Croce

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The 30-year-old Croce had already made the charts multiple times with “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” when a light plane carrying him and four bandmates crashed shortly after taking off from Nachitoches, La., on Sept. 20, 1973, the day his single “I Got A Name” was released.

Aaliyah

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The pop singer died in 2001 after a plane carrying her and eight others to Florida from the Bahamas crashed. Her debut album was titled “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” She was 22 when she died.

Jenni Rivera

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Rivera was in Mexico performing a concert at Monterrey Arena on December 8, 2012, in Monterrey, Nuevo León. At 2:00 a.m. local time (Central Time Zone, CST) on December 9, after the show ended, she held a press conference at the same venue. She left the arena along with her staff and travelled to Monterrey International Airport. She was one of five passengers and two crew that took off from the airport at 3:00 a.m. CST in a 43-year-old Learjet 25 (a small business jet) registered in the US as N345MC. At approximately 3:20 a.m. CST, air traffic controllers lost contact with the Learjet as it was flying near Iturbide, Nuevo León.The aircraft was en route to Toluca for an appearance by Rivera on La Voz… México.

The Fanfarekorps of the Royal Netherlands Army.

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On 15 July 1996 at 6:02 PM local time, a Belgian Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft  crashed at Eindhoven Airport with a total of 41 people on-board: Four Belgian crew members and 37 young members of the Fanfarekorps of the Royal Netherlands Army. As the aircraft was coming into land at Eindhoven, it encountered a flock of birds; it overshot, but lost power and crashed into the ground; a fire broke out, which destroyed the cockpit and forward fuselage. Killing 32 people on board.

John Denver

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Son of an Air Force colonel who set multiple speed records, Denver ran out of gas flying his single-seater experimental airplane near Monterey, Calif., on Oct. 12, 1997.

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Twilight Zone fatal accident

 

 

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On this day in 1982, Vic Morrow and two child actors, Renee Shinn Chen and Myca Dinh Le, are killed in an accident involving a helicopter during filming on the California set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. Morrow, age 53, and the children, ages six and seven, were shooting a Vietnam War battle scene in which they were supposed to be running from a pursuing helicopter.

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The film featured four sequences, one of which was based on a 1961 Twilight Zone episode, “A Quality of Mercy.” In the script, character Bill Connor (Morrow) is a bigot who travels back in time to suffer through various eras of persecution, such as Nazi-occupied Europe and the racial segregation of the American South during the mid-20th century. He then finds himself in the midst of the Vietnam War, where he decides to protect some Vietnamese children from American troops.

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Special-effects explosions on the set caused the pilot of the low-flying craft to lose control and crash into the three victims.

 

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The accident took place on the film’s last scheduled day of shooting.

Twilight Zone co-director John Landis (Blues Brothers, Trading Places, National Lampoon’s Animal House) and four other men working on the film, including the special-effects coordinator and the helicopter pilot, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. According to a 1987 New York Times report, it was the first time a film director faced criminal charges for events that occurred while making a movie. During the subsequent trial, the defense maintained the crash was an accident that could not have been predicted while the prosecution claimed Landis and his crew had been reckless and violated laws regarding child actors, including regulations about their working conditions and hours. Following the emotional 10-month trial, a jury acquitted all five defendants in 1987. The familes of the three victims filed lawsuits against Landis, Warner Brothers and Twilight Zone co-director and producer Steven Spielberg that were settled for undisclosed amounts.

 

Landis’s career was not significantly affected by the incident, although he said in 1996: “There was absolutely no good aspect about this whole story. The tragedy, which I think about every day, had an enormous impact on my career, from which it may possibly never recover.”

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Film director Steven Spielberg, who co-produced the film with Landis, broke off their friendship following the accident.Spielberg said that the crash had “made me grow up a little more” and had left everyone who worked on the movie “sick to the center of our souls.” With regard to how the crash had influenced people’s attitudes towards safety, he said: “No movie is worth dying for. I think people are standing up much more now than ever before to producers and directors who ask too much. If something isn’t safe, it’s the right and responsibility of every actor or crew member to yell, ‘Cut!’

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Twilight Zone: The Movie opened on June 24, 1983 and received mixed reviews.

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