(Canadian Press)

US, Russian astronauts safe after emergency landing

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques had been scheduled to be on the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft later this year

Two astronauts from the U.S. and Russia were safe Thursday after an emergency landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan following the failure of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin lifted off as scheduled at 2:40 p.m. (0840 GMT; 4:40 a.m. EDT) Thursday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but their Soyuz booster rocket failed about two minutes after the launch.

The rescue capsule automatically jettisoned from the booster and went into a ballistic descent, landing at a sharper than normal angle and subjecting the crew to heavy gravitational force.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who watched the launch at Baikonur along with his Russian counterpart, tweeted that Hague and Ovchinin are in good condition. He added that a “thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted.”

The capsule landed about 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. The astronauts were flown by helicopter to Dzhezkazgan and will later be taken to Baikonur and on to Star City, Russia’s space training centre outside Moscow.

Russia says it is suspending manned space launches pending a probe into a Russian booster rocket failure, raising questions about the fate of an upcoming launch that included a Canadian astronaut.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques had been scheduled to be on the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft on Dec. 20.

Saint-Jacques said in September that an air leak at the International Space Station was like a wake-up call to remind astronauts that all the training they go through is useful.

The ability of the Russian-American crew to return safely after the latest mishap drew relief from senior Russian officials.

“Thank God, the crew is alive,” Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told reporters when it became clear the crew had landed safely.

While the Russian space program has been dogged by a string of launch failures and other incidents in recent years, Thursday’s mishap marked the program’s first manned launch failure since September 1983, when a Soyuz exploded on the launch pad.

“Thank God, the crew is alive,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters when it became clear that the crew had landed safely. He added that the president is receiving regular updates about the situation.

It was to be the first space mission for Hague, who joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 2013. Ovchinin spent six months on the orbiting outpost in 2016.

The astronauts were to dock at the International Space Station six hours after the launch, but the three-stage Soyuz booster suffered an unspecified failure of its second stage. Search and rescue teams were immediately scrambled to recover the crew and paratroopers were dropped from a plane to reach the site and help the rescue effort.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Cycslists were all smiles during ninth Tour de Victoria

More than 2,100 cyclists participated

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after Const. Beckett’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Police investigating incident in Saanich neighbourhood

Neighbours tell Black Press Media that a body has been found, but police remain tight-lipped.

Colwood man takes on Ride to Conquer Cancer for 11th year in a row

Team Finn has raised almost $3 million for BC Cancer Foundation

Langford lizard sighting excites Victoria museum curator

Curator of vertebrate zoology/knowledge explains the spread of the Wall lizard in the region

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Ferries employees participating in Denman Island cleanup for plastic-shedding ferry

The cleanup comes a few weeks after one organized by residents of the Island

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Toronto activist calling on federal parties to nominate more black candidates

Fewer than 20 black Canadians have been nominated so far, including some Liberal MPs seeking re-election

Most Read