Booster rockets carrying a Soyuz spacecraft with a Russian and a USA astronaut on board headed for the International Space Station failed mid-air on Thursday, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing, Russian news agencies reported.
In this photo provided by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, the rescue team gather next to the Soyuz MS-10 space capsule after it made an emergency landing in a field 280 miles northeast of Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Oct. 11, 2018. "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.
Bridenstine said experts have a "really good idea" of what caused the booster to malfunction about two minutes into Thursday's launch with NASA's Tyler N. "Nick" Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin aboard. Spacecraft returning from the ISS normally land in that region.
The NASA commentator later said the crew was in good condition and communicating with rescue workers after landing east of the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan.
Gerst tweeted his relief that the two astronauts were safe, saying the day's events "showed again what an incredible vehicle the Soyuz is, to be able to save the crew from such a failure".
The Soyuz was scheduled to fly a shortened, six-hour flight trajectory that would have orbited the Earth four times before reaching the International Space Station.
It was the first such accident for Russia's manned program in over three decades, although there also have been launch failures in recent years involving unmanned vehicles.
We can talk all we want about the future of space travel in light of the failure, but at the end of the day, this is a human story about two people who came way too close to dying in space Thursday.
Safety history: This is the first major issue with a Russian Soyuz booster since a mission was aborted on-pad in August 1983, when a capsule pulled away from an exploding booster.
Roscosmos say they are forming a commission to investigate the launch failure. "NASA is working closely with Roscosmos to ensure the safe return of the crew".
"Teams have been in contact with the crew".
The head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, on Twitter pledged that the two men would still make it to the ISS.
It's been an interesting couple of months for Russia's space program. Eric Berger ofArs Technica reports that Russian sources said the failure occurred about two minutes into flight, suggesting the rocket had a problem during second stage separation, but the exact nature of the complication is unknown.
He and Ovchinin were due to join Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, NASA Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev on the ISS.