American and Russian Astronauts Alive After Soyuz Rocket Headed to International Space Station Fails on Launch

A Russian rocket carrying an American and a Russian to the International Space Station failed on launch Thursday, forcing the astronaut and cosmonaut to careen back to Earth in a dramatic emergency landing.

U.S. 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. They were met by rescue teams in remote Kazakhstan more than 200 miles from their launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Manned space launches have been suspended pending an investigation.

Russia has released photos of the men smiling while undergoing a medical checkup at Dzhezkazgan airport in Kazakhstan. They were sitting on a couch in front of a television with plates of nuts before them.

The men, who will shortly be flown back to Baikonur, were described as being in good condition despite having been exposed to higher than usual gravity forces during their descent.

It was the first time that the Soyuz — the main workhorse of manned space flight today — had failed on a launch to the 20-year-old International Space Station. The spacecraft has been the sole means of bringing humans to the space station since the end of the U.S. Space Shuttle program, but commercial providers aiming for manned spaceflight are increasingly nipping at Russia’s heels.

“Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster and the launch ascent was aborted,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “Hague and Ovchinin are out of the capsule and are reported to be in good condition.”

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, put it more bluntly in his daily conference call with journalists: “Thank God everyone is alive.”

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Anton Troianovski