US and Russian space officials said NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin were safe after an emergency landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan following the failure early Thursday of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station. The Soyuz MS-09 capsule which delivered them remains docked to the station and can be used to return that crew home at least through the end of the year.
American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are "resting comfortably" after making an emergency landing of their launch capsule.
A source in the Russian space agency said that rescue workers had reached the crew.
At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, Expedition 55 backup crew members Nick Hague of NASA (left) and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos (right) pose for pictures during a day of qualification exams February 20, 2018.
Collaboration between the U.S. and Russian space agencies has largely steered clear of geopolitical controversies, despite a standoff between Washington and Moscow that has continued since Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election.
It was to be the first space mission for Hague, who joined NASA's astronaut corps in 2013. He didn't say if he suspected any of the current crew of three Americans, two Russians and a German aboard the station of malfeasance.
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NASA rookie astronaut Nick Hague and second-time flyer Aleksey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency landed without injuries, the Interfax news agency reported. Spacewalks take extensive, long-term planning, so the crew and their teams back on Earth will have to come up with an alternative plan.
The Soviet-designed Soyuz rocket is now the world's only lifeline to the International Space Station and the accident will affect both Nasa and the work of the orbiting laboratory.
"This was his first trip to the International Space Station, and so I'm confident he's disappointed", Bridenstine said of Hague during the same public affairs interview. But the Russian space agency also considered the possibility of sabotage.
"From everything we have seen, the crew is in great shape", Wiseman said.
"We're getting really close already", Bridenstine said.
In 2003, when Expedition 6 crew members Ken Bowersox and Don Pettit and their cosmonaut counterpart Nikolai Budarin returned from a five-month stay aboard the ISS, their automated controls failed, forcing the re-entry in ballistic mode. A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted. Space is one of the few areas where the U.S. and Russia are still actively collaborating, but recent events are putting into question the Russian space industry's capacity to meet today's rigorous standards. "We are anxiously anticipating early next year the test of two separate commercial crew vehicles that will fly to the International Space Station - SpaceX ad Boeing". Gerst shared a photograph he snapped of the image on Twitter earlier today, which shows the launch abort from his view in space.
This is the first time a Soyuz craft has failed.