Russian rocket failure raises questions
Canadian officials are evaluating the impact of an upcoming launch for an astronaut
MONTREAL — As Russia suspended manned space launches pending an investigation into a failed booster rocket Thursday, Canadian officials were assessing the impact on astronaut David Saint-Jacques’ upcoming space voyage.
U.S. and Russian space officials said NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin were safe after a rocket failed two minutes into their flight to the International Space Station, forcing an emergency landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan.
Saint-Jacques, 48, of St-Lambert, Que. was part of the backup crew for Thursday’s failed space flight and was on site for the launch. He is scheduled to be aboard a Dec. 20 launch to the space station from the Russialeased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told reporters that the Soyuz capsule automatically jettisoned from the booster when it failed.
He said all manned launches will be suspended pending an investigation into the cause of the failure, adding that Russia will share all relevant informationwith the United States.
The launch failure marks an unprecedented mishap for the Russian space program, which has been dogged by a string of other incidents.
It was not clear Thursday whether the failure would delay the launch for what would be Saint-Jacques’ first trip to the International Space Station.
Gilles Leclerc, director general of space exploration at the Canadian Space Agency, said the Russians have a good track record of identifying and quickly resolving problems.
“We’ll see if there’s an impact on the launch manifest to the space station,” he said from the agency headquarters in Longueuil, Que. “Right now, it’s wait and see for the Canadian Space Agency.”
Leclerc said the plan remains “to launch David Saint-Jacques as soon as possible to the space station: conduct experiments, doing science and being the figurehead of the human space flight program for Canada.”
He added that Saint-Jacques, who was travelling to Moscow Thursday before returning home to Houston, would not lose his spot on a launch in the event of any delays. Saint-Jacques was not available for comment.