BACK TO EARTH WITH A THUD
Astronauts survive failed launch
THE Russian Soyuz rocket carrying two crew members made an emergency landing after suffering a booster malfunction during launch in Kazakhstan on Thursday night.
NASA confirmed the crew had landed safely back on earth and search and rescue teams reported they were in contact with the Soyuz crew, who said they were in good condition.
They landed about 20km east of the city of Jezkazgan in Kazakhstan — spacecraft returning from the International Space Station normally land in that region.
Search and rescue teams were heading to the area to recover the crew.
Earlier, NASA warned the Soyuz capsule was returning to Earth “via a ballistic descent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal”.
It said there was an issue with “the booster from today’s launch”.
Russian Roscosmos space agency and NASA said the three-stage Soyuz booster suffered an emergency shutdown of its second stage.
The rocket is carrying a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut who had set off for a six-month mission at the ISS, on a relatively rare two-man launch.
NASA rookie Nick Hague and Roscosmos second-time flyer Aleksey Ovchinin blast- ed off for the orbital lab from the Baikonur cosmodromein in Kazakhstan as scheduled and landed back to Earth about 40 minutes later.
The launch failure marks an unprecedented mishap for the Russian space program, which has been dogged by a string of launch failures and other incidents.
“Thank God, the crew is alive,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters after the safe landing.
The Soyuz spacecraft blasts off (top left); astronauts Nick Hague and Aleksey Ovchinin (above); and the capsule in a field after the emergency landing.