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As reported by Asgardia earlier today, a two-man U.S.-Russian crew aboard the Soyuz spacecraft launching to the International Space Station was forced to make a drastic emergency landing in Kazakhstan when their rocket failed mid-flight.
According to NASA and Roscosmos, both U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin landed safely with no injuries and rescue crews were able to locate them on the Kazakh steppe quickly.
The problem happened when the first and second stages of a booster rocket, launched from the Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur in the central Asian country, were separating, triggering emergency systems soon after launch.
The Soyuz capsule carrying the two astronauts then separated from the malfunctioning rocket and made what NASA called a steep ballistic descent to Earth deploying parachutes to help slow its speed. A cloud of sand billowed up as the capsule landed on the desert steppe.
As soon as the capsule landed rescue crews raced to the scene to find the men with reports of paratroopers parachuting to their landing spot.
The failure is a setback for the Russian space programme and the latest in a series of mishaps.
In response to the crash, Moscow immediately suspended all manned space launches, as per the RIA news agency, while Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin stated that he had ordered a state commission to be formed to investigate what had gone wrong.
Unnamed Russian space industry sources quoted by news agencies said it would be difficult to determine what caused the incident since the booster rocket segments involved had suffered a lot of damage during the fall.
Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator who was in Kazakhstan to witness the launch, said in a statement that the failure was a result of an anomaly with the rocket’s booster.
Bridenstine stated that an extensive investigation into the cause of the incident will be performed, adding that the safety of the crew was the highest priority for NASA.
Photographs by Roscosmos showed the two astronauts smiling and relaxing on sofas after the rescue, at a town close to their landing site as they underwent blood pressure and cardiac tests.
Footage from inside the Soyuz portrays the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure took place, with their arms and legs flailing.
While the Russian cosmonaut, Ovchinin, can be heard saying: “That was a quick flight.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the most important thing was that the two men were alive.
Rogozin wrote on Twitter that rescue services have been working since the first second of the accident. The emergency rescue systems of the MS-Soyuz spacecraft worked smoothly and the crew has been saved.
The next re-supply run was scheduled to take place on Oct. 31, according to a Russian space industry source but that was now in doubt since the Progress supply ship was propelled by the same kind of rocket used in today’s accident.
Luckily the Russian space industry source who was cited by the Interfax news agency said that there was enough food onboard the ISS to last until April of next year.
As of now, the United States depends on Moscow to carry its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) which was deployed two decades ago. NASA has tentative plans to use a SpaceX craft to send their crew to the ISS instead of a Soyuz by next April.