Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Astronauts survive emergency landing after booster fails on Russian rocket

Astronauts survive emergency landing after booster fails on Russian rocket

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin blasted off as scheduled to the International Space Station Thursday, but their Soyuz booster failed two minutes after the launch and the rescue capsule landed safely in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Footage from inside the rocket show the two men being shaken at the moment the fault occured, their arms and legs flailing.

The occupants of the capsule located at the tip of the rocket were scheduled to undertake a six-hour journey to the International Space Station (ISS), where they would meet Expedition 57 crewmates Alexander Gerst, Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, and Sergey Valerievich.

Glover, the NASA astronaut at the bar, received word that the astronauts were making a "ballistic descent", a much steeper and faster return to Earth than what is ideal - but that search-and-rescue crews were in contact with the astronauts. The failure forced Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague to execute an emergency abort and return the few hundred miles to the launch site.

While the Russian space program has been dogged by a string of launch failures and other incidents in recent years, Thursday's mishap marked the program's first manned launch failure since September 1983, when a Soyuz exploded on the launch pad.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin's spokesman, put it more bluntly in his daily conference call with journalists: "Thank God everyone is alive". Unmanned launches of Soyuz rockets might also be suspended, Interfax said. This would allow them to remain aboard the Station for another six months, hopefully enough time to complete the accident investigation and resume normal launches.

The descent was sharper than usual, meaning the crew was subjected to a greater G-force, but they were prepared for this scenario in training, according to a commentator on NASA's video livestream of the launch.

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US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin parachuted to the ground safely in their capsule after a booster on the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft failed, NASA and Russia's space agency said. The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft has made an emergency landing.

A photo posted by Russia's Roscosmos space agency shortly before launch showed Ovchinin and Hague awaiting launch in their capsule - ready to complete two weeks of intense preparations and final tests at the Baikonur launch site.

The launch appeared to be going smoothly, but some 90 seconds into the flight, the United States space agency Nasa reported a problem with the booster rocket between the first and second stages separating.

It is not clear how long the Soyuz vehicle will be grounded, or how long the current crew can remain in orbit.

The failed launch of the Soyuz comes at a time of heightened tensions between the Americans and the Russians over the hole that caused an oxygen leak on the International Space Station.

The rocket's emergency abort system took over at that point, ejecting the Soyuz capsule, which carried the two-man crew on a harrowing ride back down to Earth.

Thursday's aborted mission is another setback for Russia's space program. The hole caused a brief loss of air pressure before being fixed.

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