Astronauts Make Emergency Landing in Failed Russian Space Launch

Two astronauts make emergency landing after Russian rocket malfunctions during lift-off

But the Russian space agency Roscosmos has grounded the Soyuz rockets until a probe has concluded into what caused a Soyuz rocket to show problems shortly after blastoff on Thursday, forcing USA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan.

Members of the International Space Station (ISS) expedition 57/58, NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin board the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft prior to the launch in Kazakhstan on October 11, 2018.

Footage from inside the rocket show the two men being shaken at the moment the fault occured, their arms and legs flailing.

Hague, 43, and Ovchinin, 47, lifted off as scheduled at 2:40 p.m. (0840 GMT; 4:40 a.m. EDT) Thursday from Baikonur.

The Soyuz was scheduled to fly a shortened, six-hour flight trajectory that would have orbited the Earth four times before reaching the International Space Station. "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".

Thursday's incident is thought to be the first launch mishap for a Russian Soyuz booster since a Soyuz mission was aborted in 1983.

"Thank God the crew is alive", said Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, when it became clear that they had landed safely.

It's exceptionally hard to believe Roscosmos could rush through an incident investigation before the scheduled December 20th launch of Soyuz MS-11, even if the fault is found to be operational and not with the rocket itself. NASA has Soyuz seats booked until November 2019, after which it hopes to use private USA companies such as SpaceX and Boeing to ferry its astronauts up and down.

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin, who watched the launch together with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, tweeted that a panel has been set up to investigate the cause of the booster failure. Russian space agency Roscosmos has released photographs of both astronauts being checked over after their abrupt landing. The module lands at a steeper angle than they would in a normal landing.

The Soyuz MS-10 rocket had four boosters strapped to its central core.

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.

"What we usually do is one group comes up and another group comes down just as part of our regular crew rotation", NASA spokeswoman Kathryn Hambleton said.

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. In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule already docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched.

Initial information is that the crew of the capsule is not in danger and the Soyuz is in "ballistic descent mode".

It can hold a crew of up to six people and at present has three people aboard, two men - a German and a Russian - as well as one female USA astronaut.

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