Two astronauts today narrowly escaped a fiery death, when the rocket they were aboard failed mid-launch. The crew were forced to make an emergency landing when a booster rocket failed, a few minutes after it launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.
Launching from a Soviet-era cosmodrome, US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin were on board the ill-fated Soyuz rocket. A Reuters reporter on the scene witnessing the launch says says the rocket launch was fine in its initial stages. It’s likely the booster failed after the spacecraft hit higher altitudes.
The rocket was intended to take its two passengers to the International Space Station in orbit. Footage from inside the Soyuz capsule show the two men being violently shaken around in their seats, with their limbs flailing about them.
.@AstroHague and Alexey Ovchinin are seen in Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. They are in good condition following their safe landing on Earth after a Soyuz booster failure after launch earlier. Latest updates: https://t.co/mzKW5uV4hShttps://t.co/tYPIKUTQI6— NASA (@NASA)
.@AstroHague and Alexey Ovchinin are seen in Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. They are in good condition following their safe landing on Earth after a Soyuz booster failure after launch earlier. Latest updates: https://t.co/mzKW5uV4hS https://t.co/tYPIKUTQI6— NASA (@NASA) October 11, 2018
Luckily, they were able to make a safe “ballistic descent” (emergency landing) and retained radio contact, so rescuers were already en route to pick them up. The two have already been secured and appear to be unharmed.
Russia meanwhile has said it’s suspending any further manned flights until an investigation into what went wrong has been completed. The issue appeared to be a problem between the first and second stages of separation, about 90 seconds into the flight. It’s still unclear however what exactly caused it.
The whole incident deepens the cloud hanging over Roscosmos, just a few weeks after a hole was discovered in the hull of a Soyuz craft docked at the ISS, a hole that was leaking precious oxygen.
With inputs from Reuters