A US astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut were forced to make an emergency landing after their Russian Soyuz rocket malfunctioned en route to the International Space Station (ISS).
Shortly after taking off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin reported a problem with the rocket’s booster.
The men were forced into a “ballistic descent”, with their capsule landing a few hundred miles north of Baikonur.
They have been picked up by rescuers.
“The search and recovery teams have reached the Soyuz spacecraft landing site and report that the two crew members… are in good condition and are out of the capsule,” US space agency Nasa said.
Russia said it was suspending any further manned flights, and an investigation into what went wrong had begun.
What happened to the rocket?
The launch appeared to be going smoothly, but some 90 seconds later Nasa, on its livestream, reported that a problem seemed to have occurred with the booster rocket between the first and second stages of separation.
Footage from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment that the fault happened.
Shortly afterwards, Nasa said they were making a “ballistic descent” meaning their capsule descended at a much sharper angle than normal and would have been subjected to greater G-force – the force imposed on a body by rapid acceleration.
The capsule separated from the failing rocket and later deployed parachutes to slow its descent.
Thursday, @AstroHague is preparing to launch on his first space mission – a six-month stay on @Space_Station. Launching at 4:40am ET, six hours later, he and his crewmate will dock to the station at 10:44am ET. Details on how to watch live: https://t.co/N2Sukhxuom pic.twitter.com/Efu50Tkk4c
— NASA (@NASA) October 11, 2018
How are the crew?
They seem to have been unharmed by the experience.
Search and rescue teams were quickly on the scene, 500km (310 miles) north-east of Baikonur, near the Kazakh city of Dzhezkazgan.
They reported that Mr Hague and Mr Ovchinin were alive and well.
“The emergency rescue system worked, the vessel was able to land in Kazakhstan… the crew are alive,” Russia’s space agency Roscosmos tweeted. Nasa described them as being in good condition. They reportedly did not need medical treatment.
Nasa added that the two men were being taken to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow, and it was “monitoring the situation carefully”.
Photos have been released showing the men sitting on a sofa and having their blood pressure and heart rates monitored.
What happens now?
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said no further manned missions would take place “until we believe that the entire situation guarantees safety”.
He rejected suggestions it could harm US relations, saying they recognised it was a “hi-tech industry linked to risk”, but he added: “We certainly won’t conceal the reasons, it is uncommon for such situations”.
The crew already on the ISS will not be affected by Thursday’s aborted mission, Russia’s Tass news agency reported, quoting an unnamed source as saying they have enough supplies.