Crewed spacecraft bound for ISS forced to make emergency ballistic descent

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American Nick Hague and Russian Aleksey Ovchinin were forced to return to Earth and landed in Kazakhstan when the booster stopped working during stage-one separation on their Soyuz rocket at approximately 50km (164,000ft) above the Earth.

Gerst took the opportunity to point out that the Soyuz spacecraft is "an incredible vehicle", as it was able to save the crew after its booster failure.

"At this point, we have not made any changes to the schedule".

Thursday's mission was supposed to transport a Russian Cosmonaut and American Astronaut to relieve members who are already aboard the International Space Station. The mission would have been Hague's first space flight. They both came home safely.

The Soyuz-FG rocket booster which carries the Soyuz MS-10 capsule is pictured on its way to the International Space Station.

"We will need to look and analyze the specific cause - whether it was a cable, a pyro or a nut", Krikalyov said, adding that Roscosmos hopes to be able to sort out the problem and carry out the next Soyuz launch in December.

A few hours later, Roscosmos released a photo of Hague and Ovchinin safe and sound at a Kazakhstan airport where they were getting a medical checkup after the ordeal.

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin also praised his team, saying in a translated interview that "the crew performed fantastically". They arrived at the station in June. NASA has been buying seats on Soyuz rockets ever since but next year SpaceX and Boeing should debut their launch systems capable of ferrying astronauts to and fro the ISS.

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He said the current space station crew can stay on board only until January - just a month beyond their scheduled December return - because their Soyuz capsule, which has been docked at the station since June, has limited battery life and is only good for about 200 days in orbit.

The malfunction affected the booster rocket, which appeared to fail to separate properly.

According to Spaceflight Now, this is the first inflight failure of a Soyuz rocket with people onboard since 1975. In 1967, The Soyuz 1 spacecraft, which carries the same name as its launch vehicle, had a parachute failure during its first crewed mission and crashed, resulting in the death of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov.

Wiseman said although crews are always ready for potential issues, "certainly there is a bit of shock in there for a moment, but communication with the crew was extremely professional".

But the most important thing is that the emergency abort procedure worked-the astronauts are alive. In 2015, CRS-7 launched a Dragon capsule on a Falcon 9 rocket to resupply the space station, but the second stage exploded. The crew narrowly escaped before a large explosion. But these failures have been hard learning experiences for the company, which plans to launch its first crewed capsule in 2019.

NASA has also suffered a number of launch failures over the years.

This week's mishap marked the fourth time in the Soyuz program history that the ballistic mode of re-entry has occurred.

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