It’s been an interesting couple of months for Russia’s space program. Everything had been going quite smoothly for Roscosmos ahead of the bizarre hole discovered in one of their Soyuz spacecraft which was (and still is) attached to the International Space Station. Both Roscosmos and NASA released statements saying everything was being handled and that there was no concern that future mission would be impacted in any way.
This morning, the first launch since the possible sabotage was discovered, Russia’s Soyuz booster saw its first in-flight failure in recent memory, and the first manned rocket-related emergency in decades. The crew was able to abort, and their capsule proceeded on a ballistic reentry which touched down shortly thereafter.
In statements by both Russia and NASA the crew is said to be in “good condition,” and no serious injuries have been reported. The mission was carrying two crew members instead of its usual three due to Russia’s delay of scientific instruments which the third passenger was trained for. The flight was carrying NASA’s Nick Hague and Russia’s Alexey Ovchinin.
“The Soyuz capsule is returning to Earth via a ballistic descent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal,” NASA said in a brief statement via Twitter. “Search and rescue teams are heading towards the expected touchdown location of the spacecraft and crew.”
A subsequent tweet shows both astronauts boarding a plane after being recovered from the touchdown site. Both men appear understandably disappointed in the wake of what they just experienced, and the realization that they won’t be headed to the International Space Station any time soon.
It’s an incredibly bizarre turn of events in the wake of the strange discovery of damage on the Soyuz capsule. Neither NASA or Roscosmos will be jumping to any conclusions, but Russia has promised a full investigation and is forming a team to look into how and why the rocket failed as it did.
It’s obviously worth noting that the Soyuz rocket is a completely separate piece of hardware from the Soyuz crew capsule, and something like the hole found in the crew capsule currently attached to the International Space Station couldn’t possibly result in a failure of a rocket booster. Still, the two unfortunate events happening back-to-back is hard to brush off, and we’ll have to wait for Russia’s investigation to conclude before we know how things played out.