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Space crew survives plunge to Earth after Russian rocket fails

12 October 2018

A booster rocket failed less than two minutes after launching an American and a Russian toward the International Space Station on Thursday, forcing their emergency - but safe - landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

"The emergency rescue system worked, the vessel was able to land in Kazakhstan. the crew are alive", the Russian space agency Roscosmos said in a tweet.

Since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the USA has been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, to get astronauts to the Space Station.

They were to dock at the orbiting outpost six hours later, but the booster suffered a failure minutes after the launch.

Rescue teams using off-road vehicles and paratroopers deployed in helicopters raced to locate the capsule, near the Kazakh city of Dzhezkazgan.

The Russian space industry has suffered a series of problems in recent years, including the loss of a number of satellites and other spacecraft. The first crewed flights would not take place until several months after that, unless the space agency is willing to take additional risks with those missions.

Two astronauts from the US and Russian Federation landed safely in the steppes of Kazakhstan after their Soyuz rocket failed two minutes after launch. This was Ovchinin's second trip to the station, and Hague's first trip.

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

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NASA astronaut Nick Hague, a member of the International Space Station (ISS) expedition 57/58, is helped by specialists as his space suit is tested at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 11, 2018.

NASA officials now must decide how or whether to maintain a US presence on the $100 billion orbital research laboratory as Roscosmos investigates the cause of the rocket's malfunction.

NASA and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, have both confirmed that there will be an investigation into what went wrong during the launch. Russian space agency Roscosmos has released photographs of both astronauts being checked over after their abrupt landing. Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft. The crew, which was travelling to the International Space Station, is reportedly safe and in "good condition" after the scary failure was broadcast on the web. A Reuters reporter who observed the launch from around 1 kilometre away said it had gone smoothly in its initial stages and that the failure of the booster rockets must have occurred at higher altitude.

The Soyuz MS-10 rocket had four boosters strapped to its central core.

The next Soyuz launch for the ISS was scheduled for Dec.r 20, and it is supposed to take a new three-person crew to the Space Station.

Interfax quoted a source as saying the crash meant the three people now aboard the space station - a German, a Russian and an American - would be stuck there at least until January.

Questions are now likely to be asked about Russia's space program.

Space crew survives plunge to Earth after Russian rocket fails