Astronauts safe after failed rocket launch, emergency bail-out

CU expert talks about close call in space

Commander Alexey Ovchinin and flight engineer Tyler "Nick" Hague were scheduled to blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:40:15 a.m. EDT (GMT-4; 2:40 p.m. local time), roughly the moment Earth's rotation carries the Soyuz MS-10/56S spacecraft into the plane of the space station's orbit.

It was the latest in a recent series of failures for the Russian space program, which is also used by the U.S.to carry its astronauts to the station.

"Thank God, the crew is alive", Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, told reporters when it became clear the crew had landed safely.

The Interfax news agency on Friday cited a source familiar with the Russian investigation as saying that a faulty valve had caused the first stage of the Soyuz-FG rocket to malfunction even though the valve had been properly checked before take-off.

The Soyuz MS-10, a Russian spacecraft, was transporting NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, when it launched from Kazakhstan.

Two astronauts from the USA and Russia had to make an emergency landing after a Russian booster rocket carrying them into orbit to the International Space Station failed after launch.

Dzhezkazgan is about 450 kilometers (280 miles) northeast of Baikonur, and spacecraft returning from the ISS normally land in that region. 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.

Kenny Todd, space station manager at NASA, said that the existing crew can stay on ISS till January and, if Russian Federation doesn't resume the Soyuz launches by that time, the flight controllers can operate the station without anyone onboard.

The descent profile for a ballistic descent is significantly steeper than the trajectory taken by astronauts returning from the space station under normal conditions.

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin promised that Hague and Ovchinin will be given a chance soon to perform a stint on the orbiting outpost.

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, coordinated the launch, which had been planned for multiple years.

All Russian manned space launches have been suspended after the incident, according to Russia's RIA news agency. Ovchinin and Hague were both traveling to the ISS to join the three astronauts now aboard - Gerst, NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and Roscosmos' Sergey Prokopyev.

Search and recovery teams had been predeployed to areas beneath the possible flight path. Helicopters were able to reach Haig and Ovchinin fairly quickly and extract them from the capsule.

Safety history: This is the first major issue with a Russian Soyuz booster since a mission was aborted on-pad in August 1983, when a capsule pulled away from an exploding booster. He didn't say if he suspected any of the current crew of three Americans, two Russians and a German aboard the station. Officials are also investigating the odd hole recently found in a Soyuz spacecraft aboard the International Space Station.

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