Astronauts Abort Launch in Harrowing Emergency Landing

October 11, 2018

By Carlo Versano

An American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut are alive and well after a harrowing emergency landing in which the pair aborted their mission to space mid-flight due to an unknown malfunction aboard.

Nick Hague and Aleksey Ovchinin were picked up in Kazakhstan, where they landed after ditching out at roughly 160,000 feet. Russian media reports revealed that both astronauts were uninjured after their rescue.

The emergency landing of the Soyuz MS-10 was the latest in a string of failures for the Russian space agency, which became the Americans' de facto ride to the space station after the shuttle operation ceased in 2011. Hague and Ovchinin were headed to the ISS as part of a routine crew swap. Sarah Lewin, an editor at Space.com, said it was unclear when (or how) a new mission would take place.

Video of the failed launch appears to show the capsule detaching from the booster rockets less than two minutes after its launch. The capsule then performed a "ballistic landing," Lewin explained, in which the engines are used to slow the fall of the spacecraft, which would have been travelling with up to 7Gs of force.

"It's not something they expect to happen very often, but it's something that they do train for extensively," she said.

In August, a tiny hole was discovered drilled into the hull of the Soyuz spacecraft docked at the space station, though Lewin said there was no evidence that the two incidents were related; she called Thursday's failure "really bad luck."

This would have been Hague's first trip to space. The rookie astronaut was picked to begin NASA training in 2013 after earning a degree from MIT and a career in the U.S. Air Force.

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