Astronauts make emergency landing after escaping malfunctioning rocket

Astronauts make emergency landing after escaping malfunctioning rocket

Two astronauts from the USA and Russia were safe Thursday after an emergency landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan following the failure of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station.

A search-and-rescue team reached the site quickly to get to the Soyuz MS-10 crew, leaving at 6:10 am EDT, according to NASA spokesperson Brandi Dean's commentary on live television.

Footage from inside the rocket show the two men being shaken at the moment the fault occured, their arms and legs flailing.

"Teams are working with our Russian partners to obtain more information about the issue with the booster from today's launch", the U.S. agency said.

The rescue capsule automatically jettisoned from the booster and went into a ballistic descent, landing at a sharper than normal angle and subjecting the crew to heavy gravitational force.

American Nick Hague and Russian Aleksey Ovchinin were forced to return to Earth and landed in Kazakhstan when the booster stopped working during stage-one separation on their Soyuz rocket at approximately 50km (164,000ft) above the Earth.

Both astronauts were said to be "alive" on Thursday morning, but their exact condition is not known - according to local Russian report. The first crewed flights would not take place until several months after that, unless the space agency is willing to take additional risks with those missions. In a tweet, Russian space agency Roscosmos said an emergency rescue system was activated when the booster rocket failed.

It is also possible that this event could affect the next scheduled crew launch of three astronauts in December who were set to replace NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev and Gerst. NASA and Roscosmos will now need to make an unprecedented decision which could lead to abandoning the International Space Station; the first time it would be left unmanned since the Expedition 1 mission arrived in November 2000. A cloud of sand billowed up as the capsule landed after what NASA called a 34-minute steep ballistic descent.

Soyuz flights are suspended while the Russian space agency Roscosmos investigates the cause of the failure.

The anomaly with the booster problem has not been identified or described. Ovchinin and Hague were both traveling to the ISS to join the three astronauts now aboard - Gerst, NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and Roscosmos' Sergey Prokopyev.

Collaboration between the U.S. and Russian space agencies has largely steered clear of geopolitical controversies, despite a standoff between Washington and Moscow that has continued since Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 United States presidential election.

It comes weeks after a hole was discovered in the International Space Station amid talk from the Russian space authorities of deliberate sabotage.

But the three - a German, a Russian and an American - might have to stay on the space station into next year due the crash, Interfax quoted a source as saying.

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