Thursday morning's failure of a Russian rocket provided some white-knuckle moments for space officials in the US and Russia, but the two men who had to bail out for an emergency landing look to be unscathed. NASA posted images of US astronaut Nick Hague and Russia's Aleksey Ovchinin greeting their families and resting at a facility in Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, after their ordeal. The men are expected to be kept in the hospital overnight as a precaution. Meanwhile, the investigation into what went wrong is underway. Details and developments:
- The launch, trouble: The men blasted off in a Soyuz MS-10 rocket on a mission to the International Space Station but encountered booster trouble 119 seconds into the flight, reports the New York Times. A Russian official is quoted in Interfax as saying the emergency happened "during the separation of the side boosters of the first stage from the central booster of the second stage.”
- The shimmy: This tweeted video and this YouTube video show Hague and Ovchinin being shook as the trouble starts. Soon after, the men had to jettison from the rocket in an escape capsule from about 30 miles above Earth. They came down in a dangerous "ballistic" descent that put them under gravitational forces six times greater than what is felt on Earth, reports the AP. Parachutes helped them land safely in a remote region in Kazakhstan.
- Staying cool: "We're tightening our seatbelts," Ovchinin can be heard saying in a video before they bail, per AFP. "An accident with the booster, 2 minutes, 45 seconds. That was a quick flight," he says calmly.
- The ISS: The three astronauts aboard the space station were kept informed. "The boys have landed," Mission Control informed them when the pair were found safe. Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, and Sergey Prokopyev of Russia will now likely have to stay aboard the ISS beyond their scheduled departure in December. Why? The Soyuz is the only rocket able to ferry replacement crews, and all manned flights are canceled indefinitely. The ISS crew has plenty of supplies to handle the delay, but missions such as spacewalks will have to be rescheduled, reports Space.com.
- Earlier issue: The rocket failure comes as Russia and the US try to figure out the origin of a small hole found in a Soyuz module attached to the space station in August. The big question is whether it was sabotage (as Russia thinks) or a manufacturing defect. Either way, it's two significant issues with Soyuz in a matter of months, notes Wired.
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