USA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin parachuted to the ground safely in their capsule after a booster on the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft failed, NASA and Russia's space agency said. In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed he had been informed the two crewmembers were safe.
Despite its age, the Soyuz platform has been an extremely reliable mode of transportation to space. "Teams are working with our Russian partners to obtain more information about the issue with the booster from today's launch", the agency said.
The Soyuz rocket and its Soyuz MS-10 space capsule lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at about 4:47 a.m. EDT (0847 GMT) with NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin aboard.
"I think that by the middle of next year we'll be flying crews on those rockets", said Bridenstine. Spacecraft returning from the ISS normally land in that region.
Thankfully, Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin landed safely, without any injuries, although the ride was quite uncomfortable - to say the least.
Some have sarcastically linked the failed launch with the news Ukraine has made progress in trying to make its Orthodox Church independent of Moscow.
"We're tightening our seatbelts", Ovchinin said on the video.More news: New Zealand passport ranked the 8th 'most powerful' in the world
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There was no immediate word on whether the current space station crew of an American, a Russian and a German might need to extend its own six-month mission.
NASA's deputy chief astronaut, Reid Wiseman, said the crew "handled their procedures exactly as planned" and are "in great shape".
The Soyuz FG rocket used in the launch malfunctioned just two minutes after liftoff in Kazakhstan.
Something went wrong during the separation of the booster and the capsule containing the two crew members started tumbling back down to earth, violently shaking the men.
In August, the International Space Station crew spotted a hole in a Russian Soyuz capsule docked to the orbiting outpost that caused a brief loss of air pressure before being patched.
Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), NASA Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev-all of whom arrived at the station in June-are continuing to operate the ISS and conduct "important scientific research". The failure put the MS-10 capsule into a ballistic trajectory and it and the crew were recovered 200 miles east of the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch point, NASA said early Thursday.
While the Soyuz rocket is considered a reliable launch vehicle in the space sector, this is not the first failure in the Soyuz program's history.