Rus­sian rocket fail­ure raises ques­tions

Cana­dian of­fi­cials are eval­u­at­ing the im­pact of an up­com­ing launch for an as­tro­naut

The Niagara Falls Review - - Canada & World - SIDHARTHA BAN­ER­JEE

MON­TREAL — As Rus­sia sus­pended manned space launches pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a failed booster rocket Thurs­day, Cana­dian of­fi­cials were as­sess­ing the im­pact on as­tro­naut David Saint-Jac­ques’ up­com­ing space voy­age.

U.S. and Rus­sian space of­fi­cials said NASA as­tro­naut Nick Hague and Roscos­mos’ Alexei Ov­chinin were safe af­ter a rocket failed two min­utes into their flight to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, forc­ing an emer­gency land­ing on the steppes of Kaza­khstan.

Saint-Jac­ques, 48, of St-Lam­bert, Que. was part of the backup crew for Thurs­day’s failed space flight and was on site for the launch. He is sched­uled to be aboard a Dec. 20 launch to the space sta­tion from the Rus­sialeased Baikonur cos­mod­rome in Kaza­khstan.

Rus­sian Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Yuri Borisov told re­porters that the Soyuz cap­sule au­to­mat­i­cally jet­ti­soned from the booster when it failed.

He said all manned launches will be sus­pended pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cause of the fail­ure, adding that Rus­sia will share all rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion­with the United States.

The launch fail­ure marks an un­prece­dented mishap for the Rus­sian space pro­gram, which has been dogged by a string of other in­ci­dents.

It was not clear Thurs­day whether the fail­ure would de­lay the launch for what would be Saint-Jac­ques’ first trip to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion.

Gilles Le­clerc, direc­tor gen­eral of space ex­plo­ration at the Cana­dian Space Agency, said the Rus­sians have a good track record of iden­ti­fy­ing and quickly re­solv­ing prob­lems.

“We’ll see if there’s an im­pact on the launch man­i­fest to the space sta­tion,” he said from the agency head­quar­ters in Longueuil, Que. “Right now, it’s wait and see for the Cana­dian Space Agency.”

Le­clerc said the plan re­mains “to launch David Saint-Jac­ques as soon as pos­si­ble to the space sta­tion: con­duct ex­per­i­ments, do­ing sci­ence and be­ing the fig­ure­head of the hu­man space flight pro­gram for Canada.”

He added that Saint-Jac­ques, who was trav­el­ling to Moscow Thurs­day be­fore re­turn­ing home to Hous­ton, would not lose his spot on a launch in the event of any de­lays. Saint-Jac­ques was not avail­able for com­ment.

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