Cosmonaut Vladimir Mikhaylovich Komarov, born March 16, 1927 in the Soviet Union, and astronaut R. Walt Cunningham, born March 16, 1932, are both heroes but whose stories end completely different.
Komarov, close friends with Yuri Gagarin, flew his first mission on Voskhod 1 in October 1964 with crew members Boris Yegorov and Konstantin Feoktistov. The flight lasted just over twenty four hours and its success awarded Komarov the Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union.
He was assigned to the Soyuz program to fly on Soyuz 1 April 1967. Long before the launch, Komarov knew there were major problems with the space capsule and feared that he would be killed if he flew in it. He wanted to refuse the mission, but his backup was Gagarin and Komarov did not want his friend to die.
Soyuz 1 launched April 23 and experienced problems shortly after launch. Upon re-entry, the parachutes did not deploy correctly and got tangled with the spacecraft. Komarov fell several miles to Earth. His last words were of him cursing the men who put him in a botched spacecraft.
Ronnie Walter Cunningham flew on Apollo 7, October 11, 1968 with Wally Schirra (who celebrated his birthday just a couple of days ago) and Donn Eisle. During the mission, Schirra developed a head cold and without the benefit of gravity, could not clear his sinuses. When the crew prepared for re-entry, they refused to wear their helmets. Schirra feared if he blew his nose, he might suffer a pierced ear drum.
As a result of this "mutiny" none of the Apollo 7 astronauts were assigned to future missions.