Fri, Oct 12, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Two astronauts in good condition after emergency landing

MISHAP:The astronauts were due to dock at the ISS, but the Soyuz booster suffered an unspecified failure and shut down minutes after the launch

AP, BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan

Members of International Space Station expedition 57/58, NASA’s Nick Hague, top, and Roscosmos’ Alexey Ovchinin board their Soyuz MS-10 prior to the launch at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Two astronauts from the US and Russia were safe after an emergency landing yesterday in the steppes of Kazakhstan following the failure of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin lifted off as scheduled at 2:40pm from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz booster rocket.

Roscosmos and NASA said the three-stage Soyuz booster suffered an emergency shutdown of its second stage.

The capsule jettisoned from the booster and went into a ballistic descent, landing at a sharper than normal angle and subjecting the crew to heavy G-loads.

NASA said that rescue teams had reached Hague and Ovchinin and they were in good condition after being taken out of the capsule.

The capsule landed about 20km east of Dzhezkazgan 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.

“Thank God, the crew is alive,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters when it became clear that the crew had landed safely.

He added that the president was receiving regular updates about the situation.

The astronauts were due to dock at the ISS six hours after the launch, but the Soyuz booster suffered an unspecified failure and shut down minutes after the launch.

Search-and-rescue teams were scrambled to recover the crew, and paratroopers were dropped from a plane to reach the site and help the rescue effort.

Dzhezkazgan is about 450km northeast of Baikonur. Spacecraft returning from the ISS normally land in that region.

It was to be the first space mission for Hague, who joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 2013. Ovchinin spent six months on the ISS in 2016.

Roscosmos Director-General Dmitry Rogozin, who watched the launch with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, tweeted that a panel has been set up to investigate the cause of the booster failure.

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

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 US presidential election, but they have maintained cooperation in space research.

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the ISS following the retirement of the US Space Shuttle fleet.

Russia stands to lose that monopoly in the coming years with the arrival of SpaceX’s Dragon v2 and Boeing’s Starliner crew capsules.

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