Crew sur­vives rocket fail­ure

Otago Daily Times - - WORLD WEEKEND -

BAIKONUR COS­MOD­ROME, Kaza­khstan: A Rus­sian cos­mo­naut and a United States as­tro­naut were safe yes­ter­day af­ter a Soyuz rocket bound for the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion failed in mid­air two min­utes af­ter liftoff in Kaza­khstan, lead­ing to a dra­matic emer­gency land­ing.

The two­man crew, Rus­sian cos­mo­naut Alexei Ov­chinin and Amer­i­can Nick Hague, landed un­harmed on the Kazakh desert steppe as res­cue crews raced to reach them, ac­cord­ing to US space agency Nasa and Rus­sia’s space agency Roscos­mos.

The mishap oc­curred as the first and sec­ond stages of a Rus­sian booster rocket sep­a­rated shortly af­ter the launch from Kaza­khstan’s Soviet­era cos­mod­rome of Baikonur.

The Soyuz cap­sule car­ry­ing Ov­chinin and Hague sep­a­rated from the mal­func­tion­ing Rus­sian rocket and plunged 50km down to the sur­face, with para­chutes help­ing to slow its speed, Nasa said. A cloud of sand bil­lowed up as the cap­sule landed af­ter what Nasa called a 34­minute steep bal­lis­tic de­scent.

Video from in­side the cap­sule showed the two be­ing shaken around at the mo­ment the fail­ure oc­curred, arms and legs flail­ing. Ov­chinin can be heard say­ing, ‘‘That was a quick flight.’’

Pho­tographs re­leased by Roscos­mos af­ter the res­cue showed the men re­lax­ing on so­fas at a town near their land­ing site as they un­der­went med­i­cal tests.

A pho­to­graph posted on Twit­ter by Nasa showed Ov­chinin and Hague em­brac­ing their fam­i­lies af­ter be­ing trans­ported back to the Baikonur site.

Res­cue crews raced to the scene to re­trieve them from their land­ing spot, in­clud­ing para­troop­ers, he­li­copters and all­ter­rain ve­hi­cles, Nasa said.

Nasa has re­lied on Rus­sian rock­ets to ferry astro­nauts to the space sta­tion since the United States re­tired its space shut­tle pro­gramme in 2011.

The mishap was the first se­ri­ous launch prob­lem ex­pe­ri­enced by a manned Soyuz space mis­sion since 1983, when a crew nar­rowly es­caped be­fore a launch­pad ex­plo­sion.

Hague and Ov­chinin were set to join the sta­tion’s cur­rent three­mem­ber crew a Ger­man, Rus­sian, and Amer­i­can.

In­ter­fax quoted a source as say­ing the crash meant the three peo­ple aboard the space sta­tion would be stuck there at least un­til Jan­uary. They were due to re­turn to Earth in De­cem­ber. — Reuters

PHOTO: REUTERS

Flight fright . . . The Soyuz MS­10 space­craft car­ry­ing the crew of as­tro­naut Nick Hague of the US and cos­mo­naut Alexey Ov­chinin of Rus­sia shortly af­ter its launch from the Baikonur Cos­mod­rome on Thurs­day.

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