Rocket fail­ure forces emer­gency, but safe, land­ing for U.S., Rus­sian as­tro­nauts

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD -

BAIKONUR, Kaza­khstan — The prob­lem came two min­utes into the flight: The rocket car­ry­ing an Amer­i­can and a Rus­sian to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion failed Thurs­day, trig­ger­ing an emer­gency that sent their cap­sule into a steep, har­row­ing fall back to Earth.

The crew landed safely on the steppes of Kaza­khstan, but the aborted mis­sion dealt an­other blow to the trou­bled Rus­sian space pro­gram that cur­rently serves as the only way to de­liver as­tro­nauts to the or­bit­ing out­post. It also was the first such ac­ci­dent for Rus­sia’s manned pro­gram in over three decades.

NASA as­tro­naut Nick Hague, 43, and Roscos­mos’ Alexei Ov­chinin, 47, had a brief pe­riod of weight­less­ness when the cap­sule sep­a­rated from the mal­func­tion­ing Soyuz rocket at an al­ti­tude of about 31 miles, then en­dured grav­i­ta­tional forces of 6-7 times more than is felt on Earth as they came down at a sharperthan-nor­mal an­gle.

About a half-hour later, the cap­sule parachuted onto a bar­ren area in Kaza­khstan.

New NASA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Jim Bri­den­s­tine, who watched the launch at the Rus­sian-leased Baikonur cos­mod­rome with his Rus­sian coun­ter­part, said Hague and Ov­chinin were in good con­di­tion.

The three-stage Soyuz rocket suf­fered an un­spec­i­fied fail­ure of its sec­ond stage two min­utes after launch. Rus­sian news re­ports in­di­cated that one of its four first-stage en­gines might have failed to jet­ti­son in sync with oth­ers, re­sult­ing in the sec­ond stage’s shut­down and ac­ti­vat­ing the au­to­matic emer­gency res­cue sys­tem.

For the crew in the cap­sule, events would have hap­pened very quickly, NASA’s deputy chief as­tro­naut Reid Wise­man told re­porters. An emer­gency light would have come on and, an in­stant later, the abort mo­tors would fire to pull the cap­sule away from the rocket.

Wise­man said all that went through his mind was “I hope they get down safe.”

RUS­SIAN DE­FENSE MIN­ISTRY PRESS SER­VICE PHOTO VIA AP

The Soyuz MS-10 space cap­sule lies in a field after its emer­gency land­ing Thurs­day in Kaza­khstan.

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