U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin were heading to the International Space Station when they had to make an emergency landing due to failure of the booster rockets.
Gerst tweeted his relief that the two astronauts were safe, saying the day's events "showed again what an incredible vehicle the Soyuz is, to be able to save the crew from such a failure".
Hague, 43, and Ovchinin, 47, lifted off as scheduled at 2:40 p.m. (4:40 a.m. EDT) from Baikonur.
There was an issue with the booster from today's launch.
"Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft", the USA space agency said in a statement.
But the three-stage Soyuz booster suffered an unspecified failure of its second stage about two minutes after launching. "The Soyuz capsulereturned to Earth via a ballistic descent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal", NASA said on its website.
The Russian space industry has suffered a series of problems in recent years, including the loss of a number of satellites and other spacecraft.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev have been told about the accident. The astronauts were exposed to increased g-force during the descent, but were otherwise unharmed.
A transport plane dropped a team of paratroopers to the site to make first contact with the crew, while helicopters were dispatched to pick up the astronauts.
NASA coordinated a private event at Peabody's Coneburg Inn exclusively for Hague's extended family, sending astronaut Victor Glover to be a personal envoy to the family there.
They were heading for a six-month mission on the International Space Station when their flight was aborted.
New NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who watched the launch at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome with his Russian counterpart, said Hague and Ovchinin were in good condition.
The spacecraft was a Russian Soyuz MS-10 and it was on expedition 57/58 to the International Space Station.
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying astronaut Nick Hague of the USA and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russian Federation blasted off from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday - before the mission was aborted. The capsule separated and recovered in a ballistic trajectory that the Russian space agency said exposed the crew to about 6.7 G's.
A tweet from Roscosmos shows the two astronauts resting comfortably, and looking like they're in good spirits, despite what must have been a hard experience.
If the Russian rockets remain grounded until it's time for the crew to come home, flight controllers could operate the station without anyone on board, Todd said. Russian officials have also insisted on a bigger role in a US -led plan to build a space station orbiting the moon. NASA's own transportation system, the commercial crew vehicles under development by SpaceX and Boeing, have yet to take uncrewed test flights to the station, and those are unlikely to occur before early 2019.
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