Before launching themselves into space on rockets, NASA astronauts run tests in high-altitude hot-air balloons made of polyethylene plastic.
A ballon flight on May 4th, 1961, took Lieutenant Commander American Victor Prather to 113,720 feet, scarping the edge of space. The goal was to test NASA’s new spacesuits at extremely high altitudes.The project was called “RAM”.
The flight was a success. The suit worked beautifully. Victor Prather were exposed to temperatures as low as −94 °C…. without a space suit, a person would lose consciousness in seconds.
Descending back to earth, Prather opened the faceplate on his helmet when he was low enough to breathe by his own. He landed in the ocean as planned, but there was a small mishape: Prather slipped from his craft while connecting himself to the rescue helicopter into the ocean.
The spacesuit was designed watertight and buoyant. But, since Prather had opened his faceplate, he was now exposed to the elements. Water rushed into this suit. Prather drowned.
Think how much planning goes into lunching someone to space. So many “what if’s” and “what then’s”. Every detail was analyzed by thousands of expert workers. But even then, despite so much planning, a small detail escaped this massive “brain”, leading to a catastrophic outcome.