Crew survives rocket failure
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
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.