An American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut had to make an emergency landing after a Soyuz rocket malfunctioned shortly after takeoff.
Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin were launched into space onboard the capsule on Thursday, Oct. 11, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They were to join three of their colleagues at the International Space Station and to deliver supplies to the orbiting outpost.
The Soyuz capsule descended a couple hundred miles away from Baikonur, and its passengers were later picked up by rescuers. Both Hague and Ovchinin are safe and well.
Soyuz Capsule Emergency Ballistic Landing
Little information has been released, but NASA has been livestreaming the launch online on Thursday. Shortly after the capsule took off, the space agency reported a problem after the first separation.
The crew was forced to make a "ballistic descent," which means that the capsule will have to descend at a sharp angle, subjecting the crew to a greater G-force. A search-and-rescue team arrived on location even before the capsule landed and recovered the passengers safely.
Hague and Ovchinin were immediately transported via helicopter to a nearby city and then transferred to a plane to fly back to Baikonur, where their families were waiting. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin were also at the site to welcome the passengers.
Roscosmos To Investigate
Although Roscosmos is not saying much, Rogozin assured the public that the Russian space agency will investigate the incident. He said that a state commission has already been established to look into what happened.
Russia Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov suspended manned launches in the meantime until they can guarantee everyone's safety. NASA has been relying on the Roscosmos, which is behind the launch of the spacecraft, to ferry astronauts to the ISS since 2011.
Borisov also brushed off suggestions that the incident will harm the already-tense relationship between the United States and Russia. He explained that there is a high risk attached to the industry and assured that the agency will not conceal the details of the accident.
The crew onboard the ISS are scheduled to return back to Earth in December. They said that the aborted Soyuz mission would not affect operations, as they have enough supplies to last them until the next cargo arrives.