Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Astronauts make emergency landing after escaping malfunctioning rocket

The launch of the Soyuz rocket The Soyuz rocket carrying the two astronauts at liftoff
Pablo Mccormick | 12 October, 2018, 16:28

The astronauts have landed back on earth and initial reports show that they are "in good condition and in contact", NASA said.

On Thursday in Kazakhstan, at 4:40am US Eastern time, a Soyuz rocket took off carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin toward the International Space Station.

Astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin lifted off as scheduled at 1:40 a.m. PDT Thursday from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz booster rocket.

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. With Thursday's failed launch, just three people remain on the station, an American astronaut, Serena Auñón-Chancellor, the German Commander Alexander Gerst, and Russian Sergey Prokopyev.

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In 2008, Expedition 16 crew experienced a similar steep ballistic descent on return from the ISS as did cosmonauts returning from the Salyut space station in 1979. Dzhezkazgan is about 450 kilometers (280 miles) northeast of Baikonur, and spacecraft returning from the space station normally land in that region. Three crew are now aboard the station and were due to return in December. In 1975, a manned Soyuz failed to separate between stages during an ascent and triggered the abort system.

Even the most seemingly routine rocket launch is never all that routine.
"That means the crew will not be going to the International Space Station today". But Russia would like to avoid mothballing the station, he said.

Russian space officials have said they are investigating whether a hole that caused an oxygen leak on the ISS was drilled deliberately by astronauts.

Earlier this morning, the two astronauts on board the Russian Soyuz spacecraft had a close call on what was an otherwise routine mission.

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In 1967, The Soyuz 1 spacecraft, which carries the same name as its launch vehicle, had a parachute failure during its first crewed mission and crashed, resulting in the death of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. The Russian space agency also sent 70 rocket engines back to production lines in 2016 to replace broken parts. Thursday's accident led NASA officials to acknowledge that they and their partners might need to bring everyone home and hope that the station can function safely with no one onboard, relying exclusively on commands from the ground. The mission was carrying two crew members instead of its usual three due to Russia's delay of scientific instruments which the third passenger was trained for.

While the Russian space program has been dogged by a string of launch failures and other mishaps in recent years, Thursday's incident marked the program's first manned launch failure since September 1983, when a Soyuz exploded on the launch pad.

The United States is developing commercial space launches but problems with the Soyuz present a headache for NASA, which has a policy of having a continuous presence in space. That leaves NASA dependent on Russian Federation and its Soyuz rockets until then.

Two astronauts have landed safely in Kazakhstan after being forced to abort their mission to the International Space Station today.

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