As­tro­nauts cheat death as rocket plunges to earth

Waikato Times - - World -

Two as­tro­nauts have sur­vived an emer­gency land­ing in Kaza­khstan af­ter the Soyuz rocket car­ry­ing them to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion (ISS) failed in mid-flight.

The lat­est fail­ure late on Thurs­day amid a long string of Rus­sian rocket crashes was an­other black eye for the Roscos­mos space agency.

The rocket, car­ry­ing an Amer­i­can as­tro­naut and Rus­sian cos­mo­naut, be­gan to plum­met to earth about two min­utes into the six-hour mis­sion be­cause of what launch con­trollers ini­tially called a ‘‘ve­hi­cle mal­func­tion’’.

The en­gines were seen to cut out, af­ter which the Soyuz MS-10 space­ship hold­ing Rus­sian com­man­der Alexey Ov­chinin and Nasa as­tro­naut Nick Hague jet­ti­soned from the drift­ing launch ve­hi­cle.

An in­ter­nal cam­era showed the cap­sule jerk­ing the pair around vi­o­lently as the flight mal­func­tioned.

The video link broke off and the pair plunged towards the ground in ‘‘bal­lis­tic de­scent mode’’, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing grav­i­ta­tional forces six times nor­mal.

The cap­sule’s para­chute de­ployed suc­cess­fully, how­ever, land­ing them on the grassy steppe about 402 kilo­me­tres from the Baikonur Cos­mod­rome rented by Rus­sia. State me­dia showed res­cuers help­ing the two crew mem­bers into a he­li­copter, and Nasa said the men were in good con­di­tion.

‘‘Ve­hi­cle mal­func­tion. That was a quick flight,’’ Ov­chinin

‘‘Ve­hi­cle mal­func­tion. That was a quick flight.’’

Rus­sian mis­sion com­man­der Alexey Ov­chinin

de­clared drily over the ra­dio at the begin­ning of the emer­gency de­scent.

The crash comes af­ter Roscos­mos head Dmitry Ro­gozin ac­cused Elon Musk of con­spir­ing with the Pen­tagon to force other play­ers out of the space in­dus­try and sug­gested that in­ter­na­tional as­tro­nauts had sab­o­taged the ISS by drilling the hole found in its hull.

Adding to the em­bar­rass­ment were a string of tweets by Roscos­mos de­tail­ing the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of three launch stages that never hap­pened. The agency later deleted the tweets.

A spokesman for Vladimir Putin, the Rus­sian pres­i­dent, said: ‘‘Thank God the crew is alive.’’ Yury Borisov, the deputy prime min­is­ter, said. ‘‘Ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary in­for­ma­tion, the cause [of the crash] came dur­ing the sep­a­ra­tion of the first stage from the sec­ond stage. A spe­cial com­mis­sion will get to the bot­tom of this.’’ Nasa also promised a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Fur­ther Roscos­mos launches have been sus­pended, Borisov said. An­other two-man Rus­sianAmer­i­can crew had been sched­uled to set out for the space sta­tion on De­cem­ber 20.

An Amer­i­can, a Rus­sian and a Ger­man as­tro­naut who were due to re­turn from the ISS on the Soyuz MS-10 space­ship will have to be resched­uled. The crashed rocket had been car­ry­ing sup­plies, but the ISS has enough re­serves for an­other six months.

A length­en­ing list of ac­ci­dents has raised doubts about the state of Rus­sia’s space pro­gramme, but the ISS – which has been cir­cling the earth at more than 17,000 miles per hour since its launch into or­bit in 1998 – is one of the few re­main­ing ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Moscow and Wash­ing­ton amid ris­ing po­lit­i­cal ten­sions. – Telegraph Group

AP

The res­cue team gather next to the Soyuz MS-10 space cap­sule af­ter it made an emer­gency land­ing in Kaza­khstan.

AP

Rus­sian cos­mo­naut Alexey Ov­chinin, left, and Nasa as­tro­naut Nick Hague, sec­ond from right, are evac­u­ated by the res­cue team af­ter an emer­gency land­ing near Dzhezkaz­gan in Kaza­khstan

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