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Photos taken after rocket failure prove spaceflight is never routine

12 October 2018

A Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut were recovered unharmed early Thursday after the Soyuz booster they were aboard on a launch to the International Space Station failed.

Roscosmos' executive director Sergei Krikalyov said in comments on state television that the rocket's failure happened after parts of the first and second stage came into collision. They were met by rescue teams in remote Kazakhstan more than 200 miles from their launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Most recently, a mysterious hole was detected on the Russian section of the ISS in August, and a Soyuz launch failure destroyed 18 satellites in November 2017. He added that the president is receiving regular updates about the situation.

NASA said rescuers reached the crew of astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin after they landed in Kazakhstan, and both were in good condition.

This morning, the first launch since the possible sabotage was discovered, Russia's Soyuz booster saw its first in-flight failure in recent memory, and the first manned rocket-related emergency in decades. Eleven minutes after liftoff, NASA tweeted that the "crew is returning to Earth in a ballistic descent mode", meaning the spacecraft was falling to Earth without any propulsion. Dzhezkazgan is about 450 kilometres northeast of Baikonur. The ascent proceeded normally until the separation of one of the rocket's booster stages, by which point the crew had already experienced microgravity.

The hole was detected in August and quickly sealed up, but Russian newspapers said Roscosmos was probing the possibility that U.S. crewmates had sabotaged the space station to get a sick colleague sent back home.

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

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 United States presidential vote, but they have kept cooperating in space.

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The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is now the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the space station following the retirement of the USA space shuttle fleet.

That would in theory push the time limit of the crew's return to Earth to early January.

Russian space officials said Hague and Rogozin will spend a couple of days at Star City, Russia's main space training centre outside Moscow, undergoing routine medical checks.

Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov survived a fire during launch in Kazakhstan in 1983.

The rocket was carrying a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut who had set off for a six-month mission at the International Space Station, on a relatively rare two-man launch.

Glitches found in Russia's Proton and Soyuz rockets in 2016 were traced to manufacturing flaws.

"The crew has landed".

"I strongly believe we're going to get the right answer to what caused the hole on the International Space Station and that together we'll be able to continue our strong collaboration", Bridenstine said on a visit to Moscow this week, according to the Associated Press.

Photos taken after rocket failure prove spaceflight is never routine