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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.

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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.

“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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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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Strike on Saudi oil field likely launched by Iranian ‘proxies’ inside Iraq

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The drone strike on an oil field in Saudi Arabia on the weekend was likely launched by Iraqi militias affiliated with Iran, said France 24’s terrorism expert Wassim Nasr.

“It’s the most plausible version,” he said.

And it wouldn’t be the first time such strikes have been launched from inside Iraq by Iranian-backed forces, Nasr explained. Between April 2018 and July 2019, three reported interceptions or strikes targeted a Saudi pipeline running from the east of the Kingdom to the Red Sea, disrupting the transport of oil.

The technology was also evidently a Houthi missile based in Iranian technology, a Quds-1 missile that is a smaller and “better” version of the Iranian Soumar missile, Nasr said.

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Michigan Republicans thank ‘Uncle Ted’ Nugent for testifying after he says their state ‘doesn’t qualify as America’

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Republican lawmakers in Michigan invited conservative rocker Ted Nugent to testify even though he has said the state "doesn't qualify as America."

In testimony on the Michigan state House floor on Tuesday, Nugent spoke in support of a bill that would reverse a ban on deer and elk baiting. The ban was put in place in 2018 due to suspicions that chronic wasting disease (CWD) was being spread through piles of bait.

For his part, Nugent argued that the ban was ineffective because deer are "swapping spit."

"If they think they can stop deer from swapping spit, they're idiots," Nugent testified, according to The Detroit News.

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NY judge kicked off the bench after suggesting nooses are needed to ‘make America great again’

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A judge in upstate New York has been forced off the bench after he posted an image of a noose on his personal Facebook account -- and suggested it was needed to help "make America great again."

The Washington Post reports that officials on Tuesday revealed that Kyle R. Canning, a part-time judge, was relieved of his duties after the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded that his Facebook post showed an unacceptable level of political and racial bias.

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