Two astronauts from the United States and Russia are safe after an emergency landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan yesterday. Their sudden return to Earth followed the failure of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station. The failure raises questions about Russia’s ability to maintain high standards of manufacturing.
NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin lifted off at 2:40 p.m. Thursday in Kazakhstan. Their Soyuz booster rocket failed about two minutes after the launch. The rescue capsule then automatically pushed away from the booster and went into a descent, landing at a sharper-than-normal angle—making for unusually heavy gravitational force on the crew.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says Hague and Ovchinin are in good condition. He adds that a “thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted.”
The capsule landed about 12 miles east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. Search-and-rescue teams immediately scrambled to recover the crew, and paratroopers dropped from a plane to reach the site and help the rescue effort.
The Russian space program has been dogged by a string of launch failures and other incidents in recent years. But Thursday’s mishap marked the program’s first manned launch failure since September 1983, when a Soyuz exploded on the launch pad.
Relations between Moscow and Washington are strained over the crisis in Ukraine, the war in Syria, and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. But the two have maintained cooperation in space research.
Following the incident, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said, “Thank God, the crew is alive.” He's right. Thanking God for safety is always appropriate since He alone is the one who keeps any of us humans safe. (Psalm 4:8)
(AP Photo: A Soyuz rocket carrying a new crew to the International Space Station blasts off on Thursday, October 11, 2018.)