Russian Soyuz rocket malfunctions, makes emergency landing

Christopher Davidson
October 12, 2018

USA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin were rescued without injuries in Kazakhstan following the emergency landing earlier Thursday.

Both crewmembers aboard the Soyuz are alive and unharmed.

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.

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said no further manned missions would take place "until we believe that the entire situation guarantees safety". NASA too is conducting an investigation of its own.

But more than a minute after launch, their Soyuz MS-10's booster failed.

In 2008, a Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson made an unplanned ballistic re-entry on its return to Earth from the International Space Station.

It's the first space mission for Hague, who joined NASA's astronaut corps in 2013.

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The US now only has access to the space station via Russia's Soyuz rocket, which is normally dependable. "Today showed again what an awesome vehicle the Soyuz is, to be able to save the crew from such a failure". Spacecraft returning from the ISS normally land in that region.

At this moment, there are no Soyuz spacecraft berthed at the orbiting science station. The current crew's stint in orbit will likely be extended following Thursday's aborted launch. This would leave the Station unmanned until Soyuz can be flown again and bring a new crew.

What does this mean for future Soyuz missions?

"Scary, scary, scary - not what we wanted", one family member said.

A string of failed launches in recent years has called into doubt Russia's ability to maintain the same high standards of their manufacturing. This would allow them to remain aboard the Station for another six months, hopefully enough time to complete the accident investigation and resume normal launches. When the booster failed, the crew aboard the Soyuz had occasion to use their emergency training.

After the crew successfully navigated the failure and landed safely, they boarded a plane to fly back to the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Both are safe after parachuting back to the ground. Their original Shuttle would then attempt an unmanned landing under remote control in an effort to save the expensive reusable spacecraft with no risk to its human occupants.

Russian Federation may indefinitely postpone its next manned Soyuz launch planned for December, state-owned RIA Novosti reported, citing an unidentified person. It's not yet clear where the rocket touched down. It's unclear at this time what exactly happened to cause the failure.

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