Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

US, Russian astronauts survive Soyuz emergency landing

The launch of the Soyuz rocket The Soyuz rocket carrying the two astronauts at liftoff
Doris Mccormick | 12 October, 2018, 10:12

American astronaut Nick Hague (right) and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin speak before taking off aboard a Soyuz MS-10 capsule to the International Space Station, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on October 11, 2018.

Reuters Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin (R) and USA astronaut Nick Hague (L) disembark from a plane, after the Soyuz spacecraft made an emergency landing following a failure of its booster rockets, as they arrive at Baikonur airport, Kazakhstan, Oct. 11, 2018.

The rocket was launched was from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 0840 GMT (12.40pm UAE time).

The booster rocket failure that forced an emergency landing for two astronauts headed to the International Space Station was the first launch accident for Russia's manned-space program in 35 years.

An "anomaly" with the booster led to the launch being aborted, NASA later said.

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

While the Soyuz rocket is considered a reliable launch vehicle in the space sector, this is not the first failure in the Soyuz program's history.

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"Thank God the crew is alive", said Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, when it became clear that they had landed safely.

The first recorded instance of a launch escape maneuver came in 1975, when Soyuz 18-1 took off for the Salyut 4 space station. Officials said the pair was in contact with rescue forces deployed via helicopter to their landing point some 200 miles from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan early Thursday morning.

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is now the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the International Space Station following the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet. Ovchinin spent six months on the orbiting outpost in 2016.

For years, since NASA's final shuttle mission launched in 2011, the US has relied on Russian rockets to send astronauts to the International Space Station, which is largely funded by America taxpayer dollars.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement saying he was "grateful that everyone is safe" and that "a thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted". In 2015, CRS-7 launched a Dragon capsule on a Falcon 9 rocket to resupply the space station, but the second stage exploded. Search and rescue crews are getting ready to reach the expected landing site. Hague and Ovchinin are out of the capsule and are reported to be in good condition. Neither NASA or Roscosmos will be jumping to any conclusions, but Russian Federation has promised a full investigation and is forming a team to look into how and why the rocket failed as it did.

ABC News reported that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov announced that all manned launches will be suspended until the investigation is complete and the cause of the rocket's failure can be pin-pointed.

Dramatic footage showed the capsule carrying the crew thumping down in a plume of dust, minutes after it launched. Images show the Soyuz-FG rocket booster lifting the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft high into the sky before Thursday's mission was abandoned. That's a diplomatic way to say the Russian booster failed, forcing the crew to perform a risky launch abort.

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