Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
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Aborted launch astronauts to go to space next spring: Russian space agency

Aborted launch astronauts to go to space next spring: Russian space agency

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin lifted off as scheduled at 2:40 p.m. (0840 GMT; 4:40 a.m. EDT) Thursday from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz booster rocket. They then started the process of flying back to the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Soon afterwards both space agencies were reporting the astronauts were in good health.

Two years earlier, in 2016, the NASA's own inspector-general explicitly criticized the agency, saying the delays had resulted in marked increases in the amount of money the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, was being paid for ferrying USA astronauts to the orbiting station. They endured higher than usual G-force during the emergency landing.

The launch appeared to be going smoothly, but some 90 seconds into the flight, the USA space agency Nasa reported a problem with the booster rocket between the first and second stages separating.

According to Nasa, the crew is returned to Earth inside the Soyuz capsule "in a ballistic descent mode". An uncrewed version of the Soyuz is used to launch automated Progress cargo ships to the space station.

Roscosmos chief Rogozin on Friday posted a picture on Twitter of himself seated next to the two astronauts involved in Thursday's accident, saying they had arrived in Moscow.

NASA and Roscosmos said the astronauts were in good condition after their capsule landed about 12 miles east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Rescue crews raced to the scene to retrieve them from their landing spot, including paratroopers, helicopters and all-terrain vehicles, NASA said. "A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who was in Kazakhstan for the rocket launch.

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.

A Russian cosmonaut and a USA astronaut survived an aborted liftoff after a Soyuz rocket bound for the ISS failed in mid-air two minutes after the launch in Kazakhstan, leading to a dramatic emergency landing.

Russian officials said crewed space launches have been suspended pending an investigation into the malfunction.

Roscosmos promised to share all relevant information with NASA, which pays up to $82 million per Soyuz seat to the space station.

The moment the boost rocket failed was captured on the live-feed of the launch carried on NASA and Roscomos' websites. However, they can't stay longer than the first week of this January as the design lifetime of the Soyuz vehicle now docked at the ISS that will take them home will be expired by then.

Both the US space agency NASA and Russia's Roscosmos reported that the two were quickly recovered from the landing area by rescue crews. The teams are now searching for the crew. Russian news reports indicated that one of its four first-stage engines might have failed to jettison in sync with others, resulting in the second stage's shutdown and activating the automatic emergency rescue system.

The mishap occurred as the first and second stages of a Russian booster rocket separated shortly after the launch from Kazakhstan's Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur. The space agency said, Rogozin was flying to the scene of the emergency landing. Search and rescue crews are getting ready to reach the expected landing site. NASA plans to resume USA launches to the space station on private spacecraft built by SpaceX and Boeing, beginning in 2019. Their Soyuz spacecraft will dock at the orbiting outpost six hours later.

"It wasn't quite the day that we planned, but it is great to have Nick and Alexey at least back on the ground", said Kenny Todd, who directs space station operations for NASA. Ovchinin spent six months on the station in 2016.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have sunk to post-Cold War lows over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential vote, but they have maintained cooperation in space research.

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