As awe-inspiring as space missions are, they come with their own fair share of risks. On October 11, an astronaut and a cosmonaut had to make an emergency landing after their Russian Soyuz rocket malfunctioned during its ascent to the International Space Station (ISS). Space.com reports that the rocket took off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at about 4:47 AM EDT (2:17 PM IST) with the NASA astronaut Nick Hague, and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin onboard. Around 90 seconds after lift off, something went wrong with the spacecraft and it was sent into a ballistic reentry towards the earth. The two spacemen were supposed to join a three-person Expedition 57 crew aboard the ISS.
Fortunately, the two spacemen are unharmed, as reported by the search and rescue crew who found the Soyuz about 500km north-east of Baikonur, near the Kazakh city of Dzhezkazgan. Upon the unexpected ballistic reentry into the earth’s atmosphere, the pair is said to have experienced forces of around 6.7G. The malfunction apparently happened during the booster separation process, wherein a multi-staged rocket gets rid of the extra weight by discarding the used up fuel segments. "There was an issue with the booster from today’s launch. The Soyuz capsule returned to Earth via a ballistic descent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal. The Soyuz capsule landed east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan carrying two crew members. The search and recovery teams reached the Soyuz spacecraft landing site and reported that the two crew members, Nick Hague of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, are in good condition and are out of the capsule. The crew returned via helicopter to Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Roscosmos is forming a state commission to investigate today's Soyuz launch incident." NASA states in a blog post.
This is the second recent mishap for a Soyuz spacecraft. For those unaware, a hole was recently discovered on the orbital module of the Soyuz spacecraft aboard the ISS. As one would expect, the hole caused air leak and depressurization in the ISS and while the Russians initially suspected sabotage, a Russian news agency reported that it could have actually been a result of human error during the final assembly or testing phase of the spacecraft. The investigation of how the potentially fatal error came to be is still underway but another Russian news agency reported that Maxim Suraev, a federal politician and former cosmonaut, even suspected a "mentally unstable member of the ISS crew" for the drill hole. You can read more about it here.
Cover image courtesy: NASA