An American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut made an emergency landing in Kazakhstan on Thursday after their Soyuz booster rocket failed shortly after liftoff on a trip to the International Space Station.
NASA’S Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexey Ovchinin – who lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan — were reported to be in good condition after aborting their mission and landing 12 miles from the city of Dzhezkazgan, according to the US space agency.
Officials said the three-stage Soyuz booster suffered an emergency shutdown of its second stage minutes after launch – leading the MS-10 capsule to jettison from the booster and landing at a sharper-than-normal angle.
“The launch had a problem with the booster (rocket) a few seconds after the first stage separation and we can confirm now that the crew has started to go into ballistic descent mode,” NASA commentator Brandi Dean said in a live feed from mission control in Houston.
Dean said that while the crew would have been “subjected to higher G-forces” during to the ballistic descent, it is a “known mode of descent” that the spacemen would have been well-versed in, according to CBS News.
Air-to-ground transmissions were cut off, either because NASA or the Russian space agency wanted to keep the loop private or because of a malfunction during the emergency with the veteran cosmonaut and the rookie American flight engineer.
“Thank God, the crew is alive,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when it became clear that the crew was safe.
The incident marked the first launch mishap for a Soyuz booster since a 1983 on-pad abort that subjected two crewmen to 17 times the force of gravity as the capsule was yanked from an exploding booster.
An earlier abort forced another crew to land in Mongolia in 1975.
The only deaths in the Russian manned space program occurred during re-entries from orbit.
Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov lost his life in 1967 when the parachutes in his malfunctioning capsule failed to inflate.
And three cosmonauts — Vladislav Volkov, Georgi Dobrovoiski and Viktor Patsayev – were killed in 1971 when their Soyuz depressurized during descent.
The Russians practice liftoff abort procedures and the Soyuz is equipped with multiple systems to assure a safe landing at virtually any point during ascent.
With Post Wires
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