Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

After emergency landing, NASA says 2 astronauts are in good condition

After emergency landing, NASA says 2 astronauts are in good condition

USA and Russian space officials said NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin are safe after an emergency landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan following the failure of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station.

Both the USA space agency NASA and Russia's Roscosmos reported that the two were quickly recovered from the landing area by rescue crews.

Footage from inside the Soyuz showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, with their arms and legs flailing.

The rocket was launched from the Soviet-era cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz was scheduled to fly a shortened, six-hour flight trajectory that would have orbited the Earth four times before reaching the International Space Station. Search and rescue teams went into action and retrieved the astronauts by helicopter.

This was the 139th launch of the Soyuz program and the first abort during ascent since 1975 when a failure in second-stage separation triggered emergency reentry 21 minutes after launch.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin's spokesman, put it more bluntly in his daily conference call with journalists: "Thank God everyone is alive". The first crewed flights would not take place until several months after that, unless the space agency is willing to take additional risks with those missions.

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Ovchinin was heading to space for the second time, having previously served aboard the station.

Hague was born in the same year the United States and the Soviet Union launched their first joint space mission, the Apollo-Soyuz, or Soyuz-Apollo mission in 1975. The two crew members, astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin, made it back to the surface safe and sound. The probe would seek to determine whether safety regulations had been violated during construction, leading to massive damage, the Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement.

A NASA TV commentator at Mission Control Center in Houston describes a ballistic descent or landing, such as the one on Thursday, as coming in "at a sharper angle to land than we normally land at". Images show the Soyuz-FG rocket booster lifting the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft high into the sky before Thursday's mission was abandoned. Roscosmos, the Russian firm that operates the nation's space agency and is responsible for Soyuz launches, will not hold any news conferences today. But as the Soyuz is now the only way we have to get humans into space, this means new crew can't be sent to the ISS until Roscosmos is confident the issue has been identified and resolved. He didn't say if he suspected any of the current crew of three Americans, two Russians and a German aboard the station. "I strongly believe we're going to get the right answer to what caused the hole on the International Space Station and that together we'll be able to continue our strong collaboration", Bridenstine said, as reported by the Associated Press.

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.

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.

But there does need to be a crew on board for the first test flights of new commercial crew vehicles that NASA is supporting.

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