Soyuz Rocket Carrying Space Station Astronauts Malfunctions During Launch
A Soyuz rocket transporting one Russian and one U.S. astronaut to the International Space Station had to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan on Thursday after it failed in mid-air, Reuters reported.
The crew of MS-10 were fortunately safe, according to NASA and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.
The spacecraft launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:40 am ET on Thursday but the booster failed minutes after liftoff.
According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, the problem happened when the first and second stages of the booster rocket were separating.
The Soyuz capsule managed to separate from the malfunctioning rocket and made the so-called steep ballistic descent with parachutes to help slow its speed.
Footage from inside the Soyuz showed that U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin were shaken around the time the failure occurred, but they landed safely and unharmed.
The two landed about 12 miles east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, where they were met by a search and recovery team that is on standby on the ground in case situations like this happen.
“Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft,” NASA said in a statement. “Search and rescue teams were deployed to the landing site.”
NASA later tweeted photos of Hague and Ovchinin looking well and safe after the incident.
“@AstroHague and Alexey Ovchinin are seen in Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan boarding a plane, continuing their return from the landing site where they safely returned to Earth after a Soyuz launch abort earlier today,” NASA tweeted.
The U.S. space agency said that NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine and the NASA team is monitoring the situation carefully. The agency is also working closely with Roscosmos.
NASA said that there will be a probe on what caused the incident.
The incident is the first manned launch failure of the Russian space program since September 1983, when a Soyuz exploded on the launch pad. Cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov luckily survived the accident without injuries.
NASA relies on Russia to ferry its astronauts to and from the ISS since its space shuttle program retired in 2011. Seats for these flights cost millions.
NASA astronauts, however, may soon get to and from the space station aboard vehicles manufactured by American firms SpaceX and Boeing. SpaceX is expected to have its first manned mission to the low-Earth orbit in June next year.