Crew of Soyuz rocket survive emergency landing after engine problem
Two astronauts from the US 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.
NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin lifted off as scheduled at 2:40 p.m. (0840 GMT; 4:40 a.m. EDT) Thursday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but their Soyuz booster rocket failed about two minutes after the launch.
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.
Astronauts to be flown to Moscow
The capsule landed about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. The astronauts were flown by helicopter to Dzhezkazgan and will later be taken to Star City, Russia's space training center outside Moscow.
The launch failure marks an unprecedented mishap for the Russian space program, which has been dogged by a string of launch failures and other incidents in recent years.
The astronauts were to dock at the International Space Station six hours after the launch, but the three-stage Soyuz booster suffered an unspecified failure of its second stage. Search and rescue teams were immediately scrambled to recover the crew and paratroopers were dropped from a plane to reach the site and help the rescue effort.
A big error
The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the International Space Station following the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet. Russia stands to lose that monopoly in the coming years with the arrival of SpaceX's Dragon v2 and Boeing's Starliner crew capsules.
Thursday's failure was the first manned launch failure for the Russian space program since September 1983 when a Soyuz exploded on the launch pad. Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov jettisoned and landed safely near the launch pad, surviving without injuries.