NASA chief: Soyuz crash probe will ‘go swiftly’
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.