Rocket carrying space station crew fails in mid air, crew safe

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The failure of the booster rocket, just two minutes after the launch and at an altitude of 50 kilometres, activated an emergency rescue system which sent the capsule carrying USA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin into a risky ballistic descent.

The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying astronaut Nick Hague of the USA and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russian Federation blasted off from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday - before the mission was aborted.

The 1975 Soyuz-18-1 mission was much further along in its flight when the abort occurred: just under five minutes, amid the rocket's second and third stage separation.

Hague and Ovchinin were to join the current three-person crew on the International Space Station to perform research experiments.

After the booster failed, Ovchinin and Hague were forced to make a ballistic descent, coming back to the ground at a sharper angle than normal and causing higher gravitational forces on their bodies.

NASA and Roscosmos said search-and-rescue teams were in contact with the crew and en route to the landing location. An emergency landing protocol was initiated and their capsule landed in a field in Kazakhstan. Dzhezkazgan is about 450 kilometres northeast of Baikonur. The agency is waiting for both Boeing and SpaceX to deliver home-grown spacecraft so it no longer has to rely on Russian Federation to send supplies and crew to the ISS.

US and Russian space officials said the astronauts were in good condition after enduring gravitational force that was six-to-seven times more than is felt on Earth.

Nasa's chief has praised the Russian space programme and said that he expected a new crew to go to the International Space Station in December, despite a rocket failure.

The International Space Station in orbit above Earth.

Now, American companies SpaceX and Boeing are working to launch their first crewed missions to space.

It was the first such accident for Russia's manned program in over three decades, although there also have been launch failures in recent years involving unmanned vehicles.

Krikalyov pledged that the Russian space agency will do its best not to leave the orbiting outpost unoccupied.

Also, the December launch of the next crew members, which included Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, could be on indefinite hold, as could any other crewed launches that have been scheduled.

Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), NASA Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev-all of whom arrived at the station in June-are continuing to operate the ISS and conduct "important scientific research".

"The crew has landed".

Earlier this morning, the two astronauts on board the Russian Soyuz spacecraft had a close call on what was an otherwise routine mission. However, the two sides have continued their cooperation in space.

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