Failed mission reset for spring
ASTRONAUTS ESCAPE UNSCATHED
Two astronauts who survived the mid-air failure of a Russian rocket will fly again and are provisionally set to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) in spring next year.
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, was speaking a day after Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American Nick Hague made a dramatic emergency landing in Kazakhstan after the failure of the Soyuz rocket carrying them to the orbital ISS.
Thursday’s accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launchpad explosion.
Russia is now under pressure to prove its space programme is safe or face losing lucrative fees to carry US astronauts into space.
Moscow has suspended all manned space launches until it finds out what went wrong and Rogozin has ordered a state commission to investigate. Russia’s Investigative Committee has also opened a criminal investigation.
Sergei Krikalev, a senior Roscosmos official, said Russia may also delay a planned unmanned cargo shipment by a Progress spacecraft to the ISS.
Unmanned cargo launches carry food and other supplies to the ISS and use the same rocket system as the Soyuz.
Russia says there is enough food on board to last until April.
Three people are now aboard the space station: a German, a Russian and an American. They were due to return to earth in December, but may now be stuck there at least until January.
Rogozin posted a picture on Twitter of himself seated next to the astronauts, saying they had escaped unscathed and feel fine.
The mishap occurred as the first and second stages of the rocket separated shortly after the launch from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era Baikonur cosmodrome.
The Interfax news agency yesterday cited a source familiar with the investigation as saying an important valve had failed to open due to a faulty firing cartridge. That had hindered the separation of the first stage of the rocket from its second stage. –