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Crew of Soyuz rocket survive emergency landing after engine problem

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The two-man crew of a Soyuz rocket made a successful emergency landing Thursday after an engine problem on lift-off to the International Space Station, in a major setback for the beleaguered Russian space industry.

US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin were rescued without injuries in Kazakhstan.

“The emergency rescue system worked, the vessel was able to land in Kazakhstan… the crew are alive,” the Russian space agency Roscosmos said in a tweet.

The pair are in contact with ground control, the space agency said.

Over the past few years the Russian space industry has suffered a series of problems including the loss of a number of satellites and other spacecraft.

The rocket was launched was from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 0840 GMT.

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“The launch had a problem with the booster (rocket) a few seconds after the first stage separation and we can confirm now that the crew has started to go into ballistic descent mode,” the voiceover on a NASA livestream from mission control in Houston said.

The NASA commentator later said the crew was in good condition and communicating with rescue workers after landing east of the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan.

The descent was sharper than usual meaning the crew was subjected to a greater G-force, but they have been prepared for this scenario in training, the commentator said.

A source in the Russian space agency told AFP that rescue workers had reached the crew.

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– ‘Thank God’ –

The Kremlin confirmed the men had survived. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists: “Thank God the cosmonauts are alive”.

Roscosmos’s online stream of the launch cut out shortly after lift-off.

Former military pilots Ovchinin and Hague were set to join Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, NASA’s Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos following a six-hour flight.

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The International Space Station — a rare point of cooperation between Moscow and Washington — has been orbiting the Earth at roughly 28,000 kilometres per hour since 1998 and will mark its 20th birthday in November.

Hague was born in the same year the United States and the Soviet Union launched their first joint space mission, the Apollo-Soyuz, or Soyuz-Apollo mission in 1975.

Dmitry Rogozin, a firebrand nationalist politician who this year was appointed by President Vladimir Putin to head Roscosmos, said on Twitter he had ordered a state commission to probe the accident.

Rogozin was flying to the scene of the emergency landing, the space agency said.

© 2018 AFP

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Saudi Arabia blames Iran for tanker attacks but does not want war

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and called on the international community to take a “decisive stand”, but said that the kingdom does not want a war in the region.

Attacks on two oil tankers on Thursday, which the United States also blamed on Iran, have raised fears of broader confrontation in the region. Iran has denied any role in the strikes south of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route and major transit route for oil.

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Businesses clamor for Trump’s ear as $300 billion in new China tariffs loom

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Washington is planning another tidal wave of tariffs on Chinese imports that represent a worst-case scenario for markets and major industries on both sides of the Pacific.

And on Monday, seven days of public hearings are due to begin as major businesses issue their loudest warnings yet about layoffs, lost business and America's waning industrial predominance.

Some industries, such as steel and aluminum producers, have benefitted from President Donald Trump's trade policies and strongly support tariffs.

But the lion's share so far are pleading with his administration to spare the imports they depend on -- if not to step back from the brink of an unprecedented all-out trade conflict that economists say would prove dire for global growth.

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Two AFP journalists beaten, detained in Central African Republic

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Security forces in Central African Republic beat and detained two journalists working for French news wire Agence France-Presse (AFP) covering a banned opposition protest in the capital Bangui, the reporters said Sunday.

Charles Bouessel, 28, and Florent Vergnes, 30, said they were held for more than six hours and questioned three times on Saturday after having been manhandled by members of the Central Office for the Suppression of Banditry (OCRB).

The pair also had their equipment confiscated and a camera smashed up.

AFP condemned the incident as "unjustifiable police violence".

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