A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying an American-Russian crew to the International Space Station (ISS) failed during its ascent on Thursday, leading to an emergency landing just 20 kilometers east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.
This was the 65th flight of Soyuz rockets which had claimed a 100 percent success rate up till now, according to Chris Bergen, the managing editor of Nasaspaceflight.com.
The spacecraft was launched at 4:40 a.m eastern standard time from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with NASA’s Nick Hague and the Roscosmos Space Agency’s Alexey Ovchinin on board. Just a few minutes after the launch, a malfunction in the booster sent the crew capsule back to Earth via ballistic descent — meaning the angle of landing was sharper than normal. Luckily, the capsule’s human cargo was not hurt.
A search and recovery team was quick to reach the landing site, and confirm that Hague and Ovchonin were safe and had exited the capsule. They were transported to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, just outside Moscow.
In a statement made via Twitter, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced that a thorough investigation would be launched into the cause of the incident. Roscosmos has also announced the formation of a commission to investigate the launch failure.
Had it not been for the booster failure, the Soyuz would have flown a six-hour flight trajectory that would have orbited the Earth four times before reaching the ISS.