As­tro­nauts safe af­ter mishap

North Bay Nugget - - WORLD NEWS - Dmitry Lovetsky

baikonur, Kaza­khstan — a booster rocket failed less than two min­utes af­ter launch­ing an amer­i­can and a rus­sian to­ward the in­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion on thurs­day, forc­ing their emer­gency — but safe — land­ing on the steppes of Kaza­khstan.

Nasa as­tro­naut Nick hague and roscos­mos’ alexei Ov­chinin were sub­jected to heavy grav­i­ta­tional forces as their cap­sule au­to­mat­i­cally jet­ti­soned from the Soyuz booster rocket and fell back to earth at a sharper-than-nor­mal an­gle and landed about 20 km east of the city of dzhezkaz­gan in Kaza­khstan.

“thank god the crew is alive,” said dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, when it be­came clear that they had landed safely. he added that the pres­i­dent is re­ceiv­ing reg­u­lar up­dates about the sit­u­a­tion.

Nasa ad­min­is­tra­tor Jim bri­den­s­tine, who watched the launch at the rus­sian-leased baikonur cos­mod­rome along with his rus­sian coun­ter­part, tweeted that hague and Ov­chinin are in good con­di­tion. he added that a “thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cause of the in­ci­dent will be con­ducted.”

hague, 43, and Ov­chinin, 47, lifted off as sched­uled at 2:40 p.m. lo­cal time thurs­day from baikonur, Kaza­khstan. the as­tro­nauts were to dock at the in­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion six hours af­ter the launch and join an amer­i­can, a rus­sian and a ger­man cur­rently aboard the sta­tion.

but the three-stage Soyuz booster suf­fered an un­spec­i­fied fail­ure of its sec­ond stage about two min­utes af­ter launch­ing. Search and res­cue teams were im­me­di­ately scram­bled to re­cover the crew, and para­troop­ers were dropped from a plane to reach the site quickly.

While the rus­sian space pro­gram has been dogged by a string of launch fail­ures and other in­ci­dents in re­cent years, thurs­day’s mishap marked the pro­gram’s first manned launch fail­ure since Septem­ber 1983, when a Soyuz ex­ploded on the launch pad.

it was to be the first space mis­sion for hague, who joined Nasa’s as­tro­naut corps in 2013. Ov­chinin spent six months on the or­bit­ing out­post in 2016.

the as­tro­nauts were flown by he­li­copter to dzhezkaz­gan and then by plane to baikonur. rus­sian of­fi­cials said they may spend the night in baikonur be­fore be­ing flown to Star city, rus­sia’s space train­ing cen­tre out­side Moscow, the tass news agency said.

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