Astronauts make emergency landing after Russian rocket fails after launch

James Marshall
October 12, 2018

The two-man crew, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American Nick Hague, landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe as rescue crews raced to reach them, according to the USA space agency NASA and Russia's space agency Roscosmos.

Hague and Ovchinin launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:40 a.m. ET, heading to join the crew of the International Space Station.

The two astronauts were to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) six hours after the launch to join an American, a Russian and a German now aboard the station.

Army paratroopers were reportedly dropped in the area to help with rescue efforts. But more than a minute after launch, their Soyuz MS-10's booster failed.

The capsule jettisoned from the booster and went into a ballistic descent, landing at a sharper than normal angle.

With the failure of this launch, there are far-reaching consequences for the world's human space programs, and for those astronauts and cosmonauts now on board the International Space Station.

For now, the United States relies on Moscow to carry its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) which was launched 20 years ago. The flight was carrying NASA's Nick Hague and Russia's Alexey Ovchinin.

NASA officials now must decide how or whether to maintain a USA presence on the $100 billion orbital research laboratory as Roscosmos investigates the cause of the rocket's malfunction.

Both astronauts were said to be "alive" on Thursday morning, but their exact condition is not known - according to local Russian report.

These will be the first crewed missions to launch from American soil since 2011 and, while the issues with the Soyuz MS-10 mission will likely be resolved by then, this will allow for increased access to space and reduce dependency.

Both SpaceX and Boeing have rockets capable of reaching the orbiting space station, however they do not have the crew capsules ready.

US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin landed safely and rescue crews who raced to locate them on the Kazakh steppe quickly linked up with them, according to the USA space agency NASA and Russia's space agency Roscosmos.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement that Hague and Ovchinin are in good condition and will be transported to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City outside Moscow. That's a diplomatic way to say the Russian booster failed, forcing the crew to perform a risky launch abort.

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

The astronauts were able to patch the air leak, and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev posted footage from onboard to reassure people back on Earth that the crew was doing just fine.

The crew already on the ISS will not be affected by Thursday's aborted mission, Russia's Tass news agency reported, quoting an unnamed source as saying they have enough supplies.

The launch failure raises questions about the continued reliability of Russia's Soyuz launch system, which lost a cargo spacecraft at the end of 2016 and sent a Soyuz capsule with a hole in it to the ISS earlier this year.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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