As­tro­nauts res­cued as rocket fails

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THE two-man US-Rus­sian crew of a Soyuz space­craft tak­ing them to the or­bit­ing In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion had to make a dra­matic emer­gency land­ing in Kaza­khstan yes­ter­day when a rocket failed in mid-air.

US as­tro­naut Nick Hague and Rus­sian cos­mo­naut Alexei Ov­chinin landed safely and res­cue crews who raced to lo­cate them on the Kazakh steppe quickly linked up with them, Nasa, the US space agency and Rus­sia’s Roscos­mos said.

The Soyuz cap­sule car­ry­ing them sep­a­rated from the mal­func­tion­ing rocket and made what is called a steep bal­lis­tic de­scent with para­chutes help­ing slow its speed. Para­troop­ers parachuted to the res­cue site, TASS news agency re­ported.

The prob­lem oc­curred when a booster rocket on the Soyuz-FG launch ve­hi­cle failed in some way, NASA said.

Rus­sian Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Yuri Borisov, quoted by In­ter­fax, said the prob­lem oc­curred when the first and sec­ond stages of the booster rocket were in the process of sep­a­rat­ing.

Footage from in­side the Soyuz showed the two men be­ing shaken around at the mo­ment the fail­ure oc­curred, with their arms and legs flail­ing. Res­cue crews were quick to reach the site where Hague and Ov­chinin came down, Rus­sian news agen­cies said.

“Res­cue forces are in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Hague and Ov­chinin and we are hear­ing that they are in good con­di­tion,” Nasa TV said.

Rus­sia im­me­di­ately sus­pended all manned space launches, the RIA news agency re­ported.

The fail­ure is a set­back for the Rus­sian space pro­gramme and the lat­est in a string of mishaps.

For now, the US re­lies on Moscow to carry its as­tro­nauts to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion (ISS) which was launched 20 years ago. Nasa ten­ta­tively plans to send its first crew to the ISS us­ing a SpaceX craft in­stead of a Soyuz next April.

Krem­lin spokesper­son Dmitry Peskov told re­porters the most im­por­tant thing was that the men were alive.

The ISS, launched in 1998, is a hab­it­able ar­ti­fi­cial satel­lite in low Earth or­bit which is used to carry out sci­en­tific and space-re­lated tests.

| Reuters

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL Space Sta­tion crew mem­ber and as­tro­naut Nick Hague, of the US, ges­tures to his chil­dren from be­hind a glass wall as he leaves to board the space­craft at the Baikonur Cos­mod­rome, in Kaza­khstan, yes­ter­day.

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