Astronauts make emergency landing after escaping malfunctioning rocket

Soyuz launch

A Russian cosmonaut and a US astronaut were safe on Thursday after a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff in Kazakhstan, leading to a dramatic emergency landing.

Reuters Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin (R) and US astronaut Nick Hague (L) disembark from a plane, after the Soyuz spacecraft made an emergency landing following a failure of its booster rockets, as they arrive at Baikonur airport, Kazakhstan, Oct. 11, 2018.

It was the first time that the Soyuz - the main workhorse of manned space flight today - had failed on a launch to the 20-year-old International Space Station.

August 24, 2011: An onboard computer terminated a Soyuz flight about five minutes into the launch after detecting an engine failure, resulting in the loss of a Progress ship.

Flight controllers kept the three space station residents abreast of the situation after Thursday's aborted launch. They were met by rescue teams in remote Kazakhstan more than 200 miles from their launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

This failure raises serious questions about the future of the International Space Station, as since the space shuttle's retirement in 2011 the Soyuz spacecraft and rocket were the only means by which crews have had to reach it.

Hague was originally scheduled to participate in spacewalks in the coming weeks to replace batteries on the outside of the space station.

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NASA released a statement after a Russian booster rocket on a mission to the International Space Station failed after launch. "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. There was an issue with the booster, according to NASA, forcing the crew to separate from the rocket and fall back to Earth. The mission would have been Hague's first space flight.

A senior Cabinet official says that Russia is suspending manned space launches pending a probe into a Russian booster rocket failure minutes after the launch. A photograph posted on Twitter by NASA showed Ovchinin and Hague embracing their families after being transported back to the Baikonur site.

Rogozin was flying to the scene of the emergency landing, the space agency said.

"A live broadcast of the launch showed the Russian-American crew experienced a sensation of weightlessness and spinning at booster separation, signaling a serious problem had occurred", Matthew Bodner told NPR's Newscast unit from Moscow.

The future of the International Space Station is uncertain now, however, because this Russian rocket was the only way to get people to the station - and now it's under investigation. He didn't say if he suspected any of the current crew of three Americans, two Russians and a German aboard the station.

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin has raised wide consternation by saying that the leak was a drill hole that was made intentionally during manufacturing or in orbit.

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