Space crew survives plunge to Earth after Russian rocket fails

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But observers also said the astronauts survived thanks to the reliability of the Soviet-era rocket's rescue system, which returned them safely to Earth despite the launch failure.

"The Russian cosmonaut and American astronaut are feeling fine", the Russian space agency said.

The two-man US-Russian crew of a Soyuz spacecraft taking them to the orbiting International Space Station had to make a dramatic emergency landing in Kazakhstan yesterday when a rocket failed in mid-air.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Avchinin were inside the Soyuz MS-10 capsule when the rocket carrying it had what NASA described as a booster separation problem.

NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, pledged a thorough investigation after the aborted launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket.

NASA's top official suggested Friday that a new mission to the International Space Station could take place this year after Russian experts address the cause of a Soyuz rocket malfunction and the crew's harrowing escape from the outer edge of the stratosphere.

Footage then cuts from the crew to an animation, while the rocket returns to Earth in a ballistic descent mode.

The Soyuz MS-10, a Russian spacecraft, was transporting NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, when it launched from Kazakhstan.

The capsule landed about 20km (12 miles) east of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. William Harwood of CBS reports that the ISS crew was scheduled to return on December 13, though they have the ability to stay in orbit longer if required.

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Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said he had ordered a state commission to carry out an investigation into what went wrong.

Russian activities in Ukraine, charges of interfering in the US presidential election of 2016 and the conflict in Syria are some of the main issues.

It's the first space mission for Hague, who joined NASA's astronaut corps in 2013.

"The breakup of the Soyuz", Kommersant broadsheet said in a frontpage headline, while Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily wrote: "The space industry crashed in a couple of minutes". Last month, the current ISS crew discovered a hole in the vessel that Russian Federation claims was drilled deliberately.

They were to dock at the International Space Station six hours later, but the booster suffered engine failure minutes after the launch. Cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov separated the capsule and landed safely near the launchpad.

The last time the Russian space program had a manned launch failure was in 1983.

Glitches found in Russia's Proton and Soyuz rockets in 2016 were traced to manufacturing flaws at the plant in Voronezh. Officials are also investigating the unusual hole recently found in a Soyuz spacecraft aboard the International Space Station.

NASA's deputy chief astronaut, Reid Wiseman, said the crew "handled their procedures exactly as planned" and are "in great shape".

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