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.

Pic­tures: AFP, AP

The Soyuz space­craft blasts off (top left); astro­nauts Nick Hague and Alek­sey Ov­chinin (above); and the cap­sule in a field af­ter the emer­gency land­ing.

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