Space crew sur­vives plunge to Earth af­ter rocket launch fails

Cape Argus - - WORLD -

THE two-man US-Rus­sian crew of a Soyuz space­craft en route to the International Space Sta­tion was forced to make a dra­matic emergency land­ing in Kaza­khstan yes­ter­day when their rocket failed mid-air.

Nasa as­tro­naut Nick Hague and Rus­sian cos­mo­naut Alexei Ov­chinin landed safely and res­cue crews who raced to lo­cate them on the Kazakh steppe quickly linked up with them, the US space agency and Rus­sia’s Roscos­mos said.

It was the first se­ri­ous launch prob­lem ex­pe­ri­enced by a manned Soyuz space mis­sion since 1983 when a fire broke out at the base of the booster rocket while the crew was pre­par­ing for lift-off. The crew nar­rowly es­caped be­fore a large ex­plo­sion.

Yes­ter­day’s prob­lem oc­curred when the first and se­cond stages of a booster rocket, launched from the Soviet-era cos­mod­rome of Baikonur in the cen­tral Asian coun­try, were sep­a­rat­ing, trig­ger­ing emergency sys­tems soon af­ter launch.

The cap­sule car­ry­ing the men then sep­a­rated from the mal­func­tion­ing rocket and made “a steep bal­lis­tic de­scent to Earth with para­chutes help­ing slow its speed”. A cloud of sand bil­lowed up as it came down on the desert steppe.

The fail­ure is a set­back for the Rus­sian space pro­gramme. Moscow sus­pended all manned space launches, the RIA news agency re­ported, while Roscos­mos chief Dmitry Ro­gozin said he had or­dered a state com­mis­sion to be set up to in­ves­ti­gate what went wrong.

The crew will spend a day in hospi­tal in Baikonur for med­i­cal checks, In­ter­fax quoted an un­named source as say­ing.

Footage from in­side the Soyuz had shown the two men be­ing shaken around at the mo­ment the fail­ure oc­curred, with their arms and legs flail­ing. Ov­chinin, the Rus­sian cos­mo­naut, can be heard say­ing: “That was a quick flight.”

The emergency land­ing could be­come one of the big­gest pay­outs for Rus­sian in­surance firm So­glasie in decades if it turns out to be an in­surance case, So­glasie was quoted as say­ing by In­ter­fax news agency. |

| EPA-EFE/ROSCOS­MOS | ANA

RUS­SIAN Space Agency Roscos­mos re­lease images on Twit­ter show­ing US Nasa as­tro­naut Nick Hague, left, and Rus­sian cos­mo­naut Alexey Ov­chinin hav­ing blood pres­sure and car­diac tests af­ter an emergency land­ing near Kazakh city of Dzhezkaz­gan, Kaza­khstan, yes­ter­day. The launch of Soyuz MS-10 rocket booster was in­ter­rupted in the se­cond minute due to an ac­ci­dent in the work of the first rocket en­gine stage.

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