The american astronaut Nick Hague and the Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovtchinine returned unharmed but shaken on Earth, Thursday in Kazakhstan, after the failure at take-off of an engine of the Soyuz rocket that was to carry them to the international space Station (ISS).
This incident is extremely rare: the last failure of a manned flight was launched by a Soyuz rocket dates back to 1983 and was completed, also, by the return without damage of two soviet cosmonauts.
A mere two minutes after take-off, Thursday, an incident during the separation of the first and second stages of the Soyuz rocket caused the extinction of an engine. The capsule that had taken place Nick Hague and Alexei Ovtchinine was then expelled, and then began a brutal return to Earth, where she was raised.
“At the time of the take-off of the Soyuz MS-10, an unusual situation emerged. The backup systems were activated, the ship has landed in Kazakhstan. The crew is alive and contact has been made,” said Roskosmos in a press release, after a few minutes of uncertainty about the fate of the two men.
“We have recovered,” he added a little later a source within Roskosmos for the journalists present on the Russian cosmodrome of Baikonur in Kazakhstan to follow the launch, which was to take the American and the Russian for a mission of six months on the orbital station.
The calm of the commander
“The problem of launchers, two minutes 45 seconds”, can we hear him say in a voice perfectly calm Alexei Ovtchinine, during the live broadcast of the take-off. “It was a quick flight!”, he added with a sense of humor and a cold-blooded désarmants.
It was the second flight for this Russian scientist, 47-year-old, who had spent 172 days in space in 2016.
At the time of the incident, Nick Hague and Alexei Ovtchinine were traveling near 7.563 km/h and were within 50 kilometers of altitude, according to Nasa.
Equipped with parachutes, their capsule has returned to Earth “34 minutes after the launch”. They were subjected to very strong pressure from 6G to which they have been trained for their training.
Recovered by the emergency services a few minutes after their landing, they were first evacuated to a nearby town and then to the Baikonur cosmodrome. Roskosmos has posted on Twitter a photo of two men sitting on a sofa, while the doctors took their blood pressure.
“The situation is dire, but we managed to avoid a development of the situation much more serious”, said on television the director of Roskosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, adding that the crew “feels very well”.
Roskosmos has published on a Thursday evening other photos of the two men, kissing their loved ones and sharing a meal.
Opening of an investigation
Mr. Rogozin has announced the opening of a government investigation, while criminal investigations have been launched by the investigative Committee of the Russian.
All the launches of flights flown are suspended pending the outcome of the investigation and the identification of the causes of the accident, said the deputy Prime minister of russia Yuri Borisov, quoted by the TASS agency.
The next flight to the ISS, where there are currently three astronauts, German Alexander Gerst, the American Serena Aunon-Chancellor and the Russian Sergei Prokopiev, was planned for December.
According to the expert Stefan Beransky, author of a book on the Soyuz rocket, a cargo space on Russian Progress was to be shipped soon by Soyuz to resupply the ISS.
“The big problem is that there are two less people in the station,” he told AFP, adding that while the program of the ISS would now need to be changed.
This incident comes as the cosmonaut Alexei Ovtchinine, in particular, was, during his stay on the ISS, check when out in space a hole discovered on the Soyuz MS-09 moored at the orbital station.
It is also a new blow for the Russian space agency, which has suffered in recent years, several disappointments.
Between 2015 and end 2017, Roskomos had to deplore the loss of two satellites after their launch and cargo ships Progress, the failure of a Proton or the discovery of defects on most of the engines produced for the rockets to place in orbit satellites.
These failures have coincided with the opening in 2016 of the Russian cosmodrome of Vostochny, which is supposed to replace the Baikonur cosmodrome, and symbolize the rebirth of the space industry in Russia. This work was punctuated by multiple delays and corruption scandals.