American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin appear to be in good shape and back on Earth after aborting their flight to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft, NASA said Thursday morning. Hague, making his first trip to space, and the veteran cosmonaut Ovchinin blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome at 4:40 a.m. EDT, but shortly after liftoff a booster on the Soyuz FG rocket apparently malfunctioned, prompting the astronauts to jettison the rocket. "The Soyuz capsule returned to Earth via a ballistic descent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal," NASA said, adding that Hague and Ovchinin are in contact with search-and-rescue teams.
"This is the first launch mishap for a Russian Soyuz booster since an on-pad abort in August 1983 that subjected two crew members to 17 times the force of gravity as the capsule was pulled away from an exploding booster," CBS News reports. "An earlier abort forced a different crew to land in Mongolia in 1975. The Russians have experienced upper stage failures in a variety of unpiloted missions, but the two launch aborts 35 and 43 years ago are the only such launch mishaps in the history of the Russian human space program." Peter Weber