For the first two minutes, everything was going "great." Then, he started getting shaken side to side "fairly violently." Soon, an alarm and warning lights made it clear there was an emergency. "It went from normal to something was wrong pretty quick," NASA astronaut Nick Hague tells NBC News days after what was supposed to be his first space voyage went terrifyingly wrong. He and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were forced to make an emergency ballistic descent after a failure with the Russian rocket meant to carry them to the International Space Station Thursday. "Training really takes over … training for every scenario that they can think of, and this is one of those," Hague said. He adds, in an interview with the AP, "We knew that if we wanted to be successful, we needed to stay calm and we needed to execute the procedures in front of us as smoothly and efficiently as we could."
Hague, an Air Force veteran, says he's been working on developing the skills to handle an emergency like this for years. "My eyes were looking out the window, trying to gauge exactly where we were going to be," the 43-year-old notes. "Were we going to end up landing in water? Were we going to be on the Steppes of Kazakhstan? ... Luckily for us, it was smooth flat terrain. It worked out as a pretty smooth landing." They came down in the Kazakh countryside, and he and Ovchinin "started cracking a few jokes between us about how short our flight was," he says. And then, "everything that ... the training lets you kind of put to the side and focus on the mission at hand, all that starts to well up" once he was safely reunited with his family, to whom he described the aborted launch as a "wild ride." Ovchinin expressed similar sentiments in an interview with Russian TV, per the New York Post: "There was actually no time to be nervous. We had to work." (Much more on the failed launch here.)