Russian news outlets are reporting that the booster rockets carrying a Soyuz spacecraft experienced a failure mid-air, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing. Roscosmos and NASA said the three-stage Soyuz booster suffered an emergency shutdown of its second stage, just minutes after launch.
The spacecraft was headed for the International Space Station. The incident happened at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where both the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin and NASA’s head Jim Bridenstine watched the launch.
The rescue workers have reached the crew, Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague. The capsule carrying the crew entered “ballistic descent mode” and headed towards the ground for a landing, which took place 20-25 km outside the city of Zhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
This is the first accident to happen with the Soyuz spacecraft since Soviet times. The last such malfunction happened in 1975, and the cosmonauts also survived, descending from the height of 150 km.