Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Astronauts Survive Emergency Landing After Russian Rocket Launch Fails

Astronauts Survive Emergency Landing After Russian Rocket Launch Fails

"We will try to bring forward the launch of a new crew", said Sergei Krikalyov, executive director of the Russian space agency and veteran cosmonaut.

Astronauts on board a Soyuz rocket heading to the International Space Station survived an emergency landing following a booster failure, a Russian space official said Thursday.

U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin were heading to the International Space Station when they had to make an emergency landing due to failure of the booster rockets.

Currently, the Russian's Soyuz rocket is the only system in the world that can carry human crew members up to the ISS, and return them safely home afterward. An emergency landing protocol was initiated and their capsule landed in a field in Kazakhstan. The launch failure marks an unprecedented mishap for the Russian space program, which has been dogged by a string of launch failures and other incidents in recent years. He added that the president is receiving regular updates about the situation.

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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.

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. Dzhezkazgan is about 450 kilometres northeast of Baikonur.

The failed launch left it unclear when the next manned mission could be sent to the ISS, whose current crew had been slated to return from the station in December.

"My reaction was, "things aren't going well and he's not speaking English, '" NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters Friday, after Hague and Roscosmos" Alexei Ovchinin returned to the Star City training centre outside Moscow from their abruptly shortened mission.

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However, in the meantime, this failure has a number of consequences for the agencies and the crew aboard the space station. Those questions not only include what happened to make the Soyuz launch fail, but how NASA, Roscosmos, and the ESA will need to change the ISS schedule to accommodate today's failure. However, after Thursday's incident, the Russian space agency Roscosmos is conducting a full investigation before it will send up any additional Soyuz rockets.

Earlier this week, Bridenstine emphasized that collaboration with Russia's Roscosmos remains important. It had a Russian cosmonaut and a US astronaut on board. Russian Federation stands to lose that monopoly in the coming years with the arrival of the SpaceX's Dragon v2 and Boeing's Starliner crew capsules.

While the Soyuz rocket is considered a reliable launch vehicle in the space sector, this is not the first failure in the Soyuz program's history. The crew experienced an intense re-entry, and landed in the wilderness close to the Chinese border. The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft hatch will be opened, and Hague and Ovchinin will be welcomed to the space station, early Thursday afternoon.

The launch escape tower activated two seconds before the rocket below the crew exploded, ripping the Soyuz spacecraft away from the inferno as it engulfed the launch pad.

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