KAZAKHSTAN: A booster rocket carrying Soyuz spacecraft with a U.S- Russian crew on board headed for the International Space Station had to make a dramatic emergency landing in Kazakhstan on Thursday when a rocket failed in mid-air.
“U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin landed safely without any harm”, NASA, the U.S space agency and Russia's Roscosmos said.
Footage from inside the Soyuz showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, with their arms and legs flailing. Neither man needed medical treatment and both were fine, NASA TV said.
“The problem occurred when a booster rocket on the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle, launched from the Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur in the central Asian country, failed in some way,” said NASA.
Russia immediately suspended all manned space launches and the rescue crews were quick to reach the site where Hague and Ovchinin came down, Russian news agencies said.
"Search and rescue teams are in the air and heading towards the expected touchdown location for the Soyuz spacecraft returning to Earth carrying two crew members," NASA said in a statement.
“The problem occurred when the first and second stages of the booster rocket were in the process of separating,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, quoted by Interfax.
Roscomosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said he had ordered a state commission to be set up to investigate what had gone wrong.
The failure is a setback for the Russian space programme and the latest in a string of mishaps. In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule already docked to the ISS, which caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Rogozin has said it could have been "sabotage".
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