U.S., Russian astronauts make emergency landing after booster rocket fails

Astronauts on board a Soyuz rocket heading to the International Space Station survived an emergency landing following a booster failure, a Russian space official said Thursday.

The two-man crew, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American Nick Hague, landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe as rescue crews raced to reach them, according to the US space agency NASA and Russia's space agency Roscosmos.

Footage from inside the Soyuz had shown the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, with their arms and legs flailing.

The NASA commentator later said the crew was in good condition and communicating with rescue workers after landing east of the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan. But more than a minute after launch, their Soyuz MS-10's booster failed. "The Soyuz capsule returned to Earth via a ballistic descent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal".

The failure is a setback for the Russian space program and the latest in a string of mishaps.

Dmitry Rogozin, a firebrand nationalist politician who this year was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to head Roscosmos, earlier said he had ordered a state commission to probe the accident. Ovchinin spent six months on the International Space Station in 2016. They endured higher than usual G-force during the emergency landing.

The rocket took off from Kazakhstan and was on its way to the International Space Station.

Had the launch gone smoothly, Ovchinin and Hague would have reached the space station later today.

A Russian Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft experienced an "anomaly" during liftoff today while carrying two passengers en route to the International Space Station (ISS).

He added 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.

Helicopters were able to reach Hague and Ovchinin fairly quickly and get them out of the capsule.

NASA has not provided much detail about the failure, but confirmed in a tweet that there was a problem with booster separation. That's a diplomatic way to say the Russian booster failed, forcing the crew to perform a risky launch abort.

Russian Federation immediately suspended all manned space launches and set up a state commission to investigate what had gone wrong.

In this photo provided by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, the Soyuz MS-10 space capsule lays in a field after an emergency landing near Dzhezkazgan, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) northeast of Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on October 11, 2018.

The crew landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan, but the aborted mission dealt another blow to the troubled Russian space program that now serves as the only link to deliver astronauts to the orbiting outpost. That 0.08-inch (2-millimeter) hole in the orbital module of the Soyuz vehicle created a small air leak on the space station that was detected by flight controllers on the ground and ultimately repaired by astronauts and cosmonauts on the space station.

A photo posted by Russia's Roscosmos space agency shortly before launch showed Ovchinin and Hague awaiting launch in their capsule - ready to complete two weeks of intense preparations and final tests at the Baikonur launch site.

Interfax quoted a source as saying the crash meant the three people now aboard the space station - a German, a Russian and an American - would be stuck there at least until January.

  • Essie Rivera