ISS crew safe after emergency landing

Two astronauts make emergency landing after Russian rocket malfunctions during lift-off

A Soyuz rocket booster failed during the launch of a capsule carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin on Thursday, forcing officials to abort their mission.

NASA said it has been informed by Russian space officials that the crew has made an emergency landing at an unspecified location in Kazakhstan and is in good condition.

It was to be Hague's first flight to the station, launching at 3:40 a.m. Thursday from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome.

NASA is holding a press briefing today at noon EDT (1600 GMT) to discuss the failure of today's (Oct. 11) astronaut launch to the International Space Station.

Rescue crews then raced to the scene to retrieve them, including paratroopers parachuting to their landing spot, helicopters and all-terrain vehicles, NASA said. According to NASA TV footage of the launch, Russian flight controllers first announced a booster failure about 165 seconds into flight.

The failure is a setback for the Russian space program and the latest in a string of mishaps.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists: "Thank God the cosmonauts are alive". "Spaceflight is hard. And we must keep trying for the benefit of humankind", ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted from aboard the space station as he watched and photographed the launch from space.

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Earlier this morning, the two astronauts on board the Russian Soyuz spacecraft had a close call on what was an otherwise routine mission. The last one returned to Earth on October 4, carrying NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, after their 197-day mission in space.

Dmitry Rogozin, a firebrand nationalist politician who this year was appointed by Putin to head Roscosmos, said a "thorough investigation" was needed after the failed launch. Both crew members are reportedly safe and in good condition, and have already been reunited with their families.

NASA said that the crew was safe and was making an emergency landing in Kazakhstan where the unsuccessful launch took place.

Back in 2015 Progress spacecraft - unmanned transport spacecraft that sent supplies to the ISS - had problems on launchers similar to the Soyuz rocket that experienced problems on Thursday. Three crew are now aboard the station and were due to return in December. Roscosmos, the Russian firm that operates the nation's space agency and is responsible for Soyuz launches, will not hold any news conferences today.

The future of the International Space Station is uncertain now, however, because this Russian rocket was the only way to get people to the station - and now it's under investigation.

The rocket's emergency abort system took over at that point, ejecting the Soyuz capsule, which carried the two-man crew on a harrowing ride back down to Earth. "But we have confidence that our Russian colleagues will figure out what's going on and we'll hopefully see Nick and Alexei in orbit at the space station soon", said Kenny Todd, NASA's International Space Station operations integration manager.

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