NASA: Launches on schedule despite Soyuz rocket crash
MOSCOW — NASA’s top official suggested Friday that a new mission to the International Space Station could take place this year after Russian experts address the cause of a Soyuz rocket malfunction and the crew’s harrowing escape from the outer edge of the stratosphere.
“At this point, we have not made any changes to the schedule. No changes have been made. The investigation is underway,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters.
That could mean another launch before mid-December, when the three-member crew of the space station was scheduled to end their six-month mission.
Bridenstine said experts have a “really good idea” of what caused the booster to malfunction about two minutes into Thursday’s launch with NASA’s Tyler N. “Nick” Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin aboard.
“I think the investigation is going to go swiftly,” he said, but gave no further details on the preliminary findings.
Hague and Ovchinin jettisoned in an escape capsule from the Soyuz MS-10 rocket about 31 miles above the steppes of Kazakhstan.
The capsule’s parachutes deployed, but the descent was steep and fast. NASA said Hague and Ovchinin experienced more than six times the force of gravity before tumbling onto a grassy expanse more than 200 miles from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Hague and Ovchinin remained under medical observation Friday, but no serious health problems were reported.
The chief of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, promised that both men will be given another chance to reach the space station.
“The boys will certainly fly their mission,” Rogozin tweeted, posting a picture in which he sits with the two astronauts aboard a Moscow-bound plane. “We plan that they will fly in the spring.”