Tuesday 21 May 2019

Astronauts cheat death as rocket fails in mid-flight

Doomed: The rocket booster with space ship blasts offabout. Photo: AP
Doomed: The rocket booster with space ship blasts offabout. Photo: AP

Alec Luhn

Two astronauts have survived an emergency landing in Kazakhstan after the Soyuz rocket carrying them to the International Space Station (ISS) failed in mid-flight.

The latest failure yesterday, amid a long string of Russian rocket crashes, was another black eye for the Roscosmos space agency. The rocket, carrying an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut, began to plummet to earth about two minutes into the six-hour mission due to what launch controllers initially called a "vehicle malfunction".

The engines were seen to cut out, after which the Soyuz MS-10 spaceship holding Russian commander Alexey Ovchinin and Nasa astronaut Nick Hague jettisoned from the drifting launch vehicle.

An internal camera showed the capsule jerking the pair around violently as the flight malfunctioned.

The video link broke off and the pair plunged toward the ground in "ballistic descent mode", experiencing gravitational forces six times normal.

The capsule's parachute deployed successfully, however, landing them on the grassy steppe about 250 miles from the Baikonur Cosmodrome rented by Russia. State media showed rescuers helping the two crew members into a helicopter, and Nasa said the men were in good condition.

"Vehicle malfunction. That was a quick flight," Mr Ovchinin declared drily over the radio at the beginning of the emergency descent.

The crash comes after Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin accused Elon Musk of conspiring with the Pentagon to force other players out of the space industry and suggested that international astronauts had sabotaged the ISS by drilling the hole found in its hull. Adding to the embarrassment was a string of tweets by Roscosmos detailing the successful completion of three launch stages that never happened. The agency later deleted them.

Irish Independent

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