Astronauts forced to make dramatic escape from malfunctioning rocket heading for International Space Station
A US astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut heading for the International Space Station were forced to make a dramatic escape when their rocket malfunctioned today.
Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin had been in the air for little more than two minutes of their six-hour mission when they reported a problem with the rocket's booster and the Russian-made Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft began to plummet to earth.
The men, who had set off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, were forced into a 'ballistic descent', meaning their capsule descended at a much sharper angle than normal and would have been subjected to greater G-force, the force imposed on a body by rapid acceleration.
The capsule separated from the failing rocket and reportedly deployed parachutes to slow its descent. It landed a few hundred miles north of Baikonur and the men were picked up by rescuers who took them to Baikonur in helicopters.
Search and rescue teams reported that they were in "good condition" after the scary incident.
Footage from an internal camera that was inside the capsule shows Hague and Ovchinin being jerked around violently the moment that the fault happened.
"Vehicle malfunction. That was a quick flight," Ovchinin declared dryly over the radio at the beginning of the emergency descent.
A further statement from Nasa blamed an “anomaly with the booster” for the incident and promised a thorough investigation.
"The search and recovery teams have reached the Soyuz spacecraft landing site and report that the two crew members... are in good condition and are out of the capsule," they said.
Russia has stated it was suspending any further manned flights and announced that an investigation into what exactly went wrong had begun.
Their suspension allegedly puts the International Space Station and other work under question, due to the fact that astronauts sent on those missions often go from the Russian cosmodrome and use its rockets to head into space.
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said: "Thank God the crew is alive."
"According to preliminary information, the cause [of the crash] came during the separation of the first stage from the second stage," Yury Borisov, deputy prime minister for the military industrial complex, told journalists. "A special commission will get to the bottom of this."
The incident is reportedly the latest in a long string of Russian launch failures since 2010. However, it is the first time in the history of the ISS programme that a manned Soyuz mission has failed.
The Russian space programme's last manned launch failure occurred in September 1983, when a Soyuz exploded on the launch pad. Fortunately, Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov jettisoned and landed safely near the launch pad.