In­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gins into rocket mis­sion fail­ure

Hawke's Bay Today - - World - Kaza­khstan

The prob­lem came two min­utes into the flight: The rocket car­ry­ing an Amer­i­can and a Rus­sian to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion failed Thurs­day, trig­ger­ing an emer­gency that sent their cap­sule into a steep, har­row­ing fall back to Earth.

The crew landed safely on the steppes of Kaza­khstan, but the aborted mis­sion dealt an­other blow to the trou­bled Rus­sian space pro­gram that cur­rently serves as the only way to de­liver as­tro­nauts to the or­bit­ing out­post. It also was the first such ac­ci­dent for Rus­sia’s manned pro­gram in over three decades.

NASA as­tro­naut Nick Hague and Roscos­mos’ Alexei Ov­chinin had a brief pe­riod of weight­less­ness when the cap­sule separated from the mal­func­tion­ing Soyuz rocket at an al­ti­tude of about 50km, then en­dured grav­i­ta­tional forces of seven times more than on Earth as they came down at a sharper-than-nor­mal an­gle.

About a half-hour later, the cap­sule parachuted onto a bar­ren area about 20km east of the city of Dzhezkaz­gan in Kaza­khstan.

“Thank God the crew is alive,” said Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

All Rus­sian manned launches were sus­pended pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fail­ure, said Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Yuri Borisov.

New NASA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Jim Bri­den­s­tine, who watched the launch at the Rus­sian-leased Baikonur cos­mod­rome with his Rus­sian coun­ter­part, said Hague and Ov­chinin were in good con­di­tion. He added that a “thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion” will be con­ducted.

As­tro­nauts Hague, 43, and Ov­chinin, 47, were to dock at the space sta­tion six hours af­ter lift off and join an Amer­i­can, a Rus­sian and a Ger­man on board.

But the three-stage Soyuz rocket suf­fered an un­spec­i­fied fail­ure of its sec­ond stage two min­utes af­ter launch.

Rus­sian news re­ports in­di­cated that one of its four first-stage en­gines might have failed to jet­ti­son in sync with oth­ers, re­sult­ing in the sec­ond stage’s shut­down and ac­ti­vat­ing the au­to­matic emer­gency res­cue sys­tem.

PHOTO / AP

NASA as­tro­naut Nick Hague and Roscos­mos’ Alexei Ov­chinin plum­meted back to earth af­ter their Soyuz rocket mal­func­tioned.

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