Astronauts make emergency landing after Soyuz rocket failure

Olive Hawkins
October 11, 2018

"An accident with the booster, two minutes, 45 seconds", the voice of Ovchinin could be heard saying calmly in live-streamed footage of the launch from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome.

Russian and US space officials said that the crew is heading for an emergency landing in Kazakhstan at an unspecified time.

The Russian Soyuz rocket has malfunctioned on lift-off has landed safely in Kazahstan, Russian media report.

This morning, the first launch since the possible sabotage was discovered, Russia's Soyuz booster saw its first in-flight failure in recent memory, and the first manned rocket-related emergency in decades.

"The crew landed", Dmitry Rogozin, director of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said on Twitter.

NASA astronaut Hague and Roscosmos' cosmnonaut Ovchinin lifted off as scheduled at 4:40 a.m. EDT Thursday from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Search and rescue teams were heading to the area to recover the crew. Dzhezkazgan is about 450 kilometres northeast of Baikonur.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the NASA team are monitoring the situation carefully.

Had the launch gone smoothly, Ovchinin and Hague would have reached the space station later today.

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Earlier this week, Bridenstine emphasized that collaboration with Russia's Roscosmos remains important.

Moscow immediately suspended all manned space launches, the RIA news agency reported, while Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said he had ordered a state commission to be set up to investigate what had gone wrong.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have sunk to post-Cold War lows over the crisis in Ukraine, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential vote, but Russia and the US have maintained cooperation in space.

The crew members of Expedition 57 are conducting experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the International Space Station. 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.

Russian Federation has continued to rely on Soviet-designed booster rockets for launching commercial satellites, as well as crews and cargo to the International Space Station.

But the consequences of the failed launch will ripple through the space station's activities. Officials are also investigating the odd hole recently found in a Soyuz spacecraft aboard the International Space Station.

"The crew is returning to Earth in a ballistic descent mode", wrote NASA, noting that the descent would take place at a steeper angle than usual, but that rescue crews were en route to the expected scene of the landing.

It can hold a crew of up to six people and at present has three people aboard, two men - a German and a Russian - as well as one female USA astronaut.

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