NASA chief: Soyuz crash probe will ‘go swiftly’

Santa Fe New Mexican - - NATION&WORLD - By Amie Ferris-Rotman

MOSCOW — NASA’s top of­fi­cial sug­gested Fri­day that a new mis­sion to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion could take place this year af­ter Rus­sian ex­perts address the cause of a Soyuz rocket mal­func­tion, which sent the crew on a har­row­ing es­cape from the outer edge of the strato­sphere.

“I fully an­tic­i­pate that we will fly again on a Soyuz rocket, and I have no rea­son to believe at this point that it will not be on sched­ule,” NASA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Jim Bri­den­s­tine told re­porters.

That could mean an­other launch be­fore mid-De­cem­ber, when the three-mem­ber crew on the space sta­tion — an Amer­i­can, Rus­sian and Ger­man — was sched­uled to end their six-month mis­sion.

“No changes have been made. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is un­der­way,” Bri­den­s­tine added.

Rus­sian space launches were sus­pended Thurs­day af­ter the booster mal­func­tioned about two min­utes from liftoff — about 31 miles above the sur­face — with NASA’s Tyler N. “Nick” Hague and Rus­sian cos­mo­naut Alexey Ov­chinin aboard. Both men landed safely on the grassy steppes of Kaza­khstan af­ter jet­ti­son­ing away in their cap­sule.

NASA said Hague and Ov­chinin ex­pe­ri­enced more than six times the force of grav­ity be­fore tum­bling onto an ex­panse more than 200 miles from the Rus­sian-op­er­ated Baikonur Cos­mod­rome in Kaza­khstan.

Rus­sian tech­ni­cians are con­duct­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the rocket fail­ure. Bri­den­s­tine said they have a “re­ally good idea” on the cause. “I think the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is go­ing to go swiftly,” he said, but gave no fur­ther de­tails.

Hague and Ov­chinin re­mained un­der med­i­cal ob­ser­va­tion Fri­day.

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