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US, Russian astronauts survive Soyuz emergency landing

13 October 2018

There was an issue with the booster, according to NASA, forcing the crew to separate from the rocket and fall back to Earth.

International Space Station (ISS) crew members astronaut Nick Hague of the USA and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russian Federation board the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft for the launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan October 11, 2018.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague, a member of the International Space Station (ISS) expedition 57/58, is helped by specialists as his space suit is tested at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 11, 2018.

Two minutes after Hague and Ovchinin blasted off Thursday for the International Space Station, their rocket failed, triggering an emergency landing.

"The Soyuz capsule is returning to Earth via a ballistic descent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal", NASA said in a brief statement via Twitter.

The pair landed about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. The city is about 450 kilometers from the Russia's Baikonur space center, which Russian Federation operates through an agreement with the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz spacecraft launched today was to be the return vehicle for Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, who were to return to Earth on December 13.

The ISS crew will do their best to perform spacewalks in the future, but "on other dates", Sergei Krikalev, senior official at Russia's national space agency Roscosmos, told reporters on Friday.

Russian Federation now operates the only spacecraft for ferrying crews to the station following the retirement of the US space shuttle fleet, but it stands to lose that monopoly in the coming years with the arrival of commercial USA crew capsules - SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's Starliner.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who watched the launch at Baikonur tweeted that Hague and Ovchinin are in good condition.

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is now the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the International Space Station following the retirement of the USA space shuttle fleet.

Despite NASA's publicly expressed confidence about the effects of a suspension in Russian Soyuz launches, some space officials expressed concern privately that it could affect important scientific research that is being conducted on board the station, which serves as an orbiting laboratory in space.

Two astronauts made an emergency landing in Kazakhstan after the failure of Soyuz rocket.

Gerst tweeted his relief that the two astronauts were safe, saying the day's events "showed again what an fantastic vehicle the Soyuz is, to be able to save the crew from such a failure". Unmanned launches of Soyuz rockets might also be suspended, Interfax said.

It's been an interesting couple of months for Russia's space program. It's a predicament that would've seemed inconceivable to both Americans and Russians at the height of the space race in the 1960s and 1970s.

Rogozin, the Roscosmos chief, has raised wide consternation by saying that an air leak spotted at the International Space Station was a drill hole that was made intentionally during manufacturing or in orbit.

US, Russian astronauts survive Soyuz emergency landing