Failed Russian space launch Soyuz
© AP Video
A botched launch of the Russian spaceship Soyuz narrowly avoided becoming the latest fatal space incident on Thursday. Rescue systems managed to save the lives of two crew members and conduct an emergency landing.

The Soyuz-MS-10 spacecraft was meant to deliver Roscosmos' Aleksey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague, members of Expedition 57/58, to the International Space Station (ISS). But 119 seconds after take-off from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle experienced a malfunction and crew rescue protocols were engaged.

The mission went astray just after the booster blocks of the first rocket stage detached. The second stage engines were shut down and seconds later the capsule with the crew members shot away from the rocket, dropped its two other modules, and returned to Earth.

The emergency landing used a more-demanding-than-usual ballistic descent, but the capsule brought Ovchinin and Hague back alive.

A Russian search and recovery team was sent to the landing site around 20-25km (12-15 miles) from Zhezkazgan, in central Kazakhstan and brought the survivors back to Baikonur by helicopter. The Russian military also deployed paratroopers in the area to facilitate the rescue mission.

The cause of the Soyuz malfunction is yet to be established. It was the first failure for the Soyuz-FG rocket out of the over 60 launches conducted since 2001.

The Soyuz-MS version of the veteran Russian space capsule has been used since 2016. Boost phase abortion incidents like this one have not happened since an April 1975 launch. Another Soyuz spacecraft mission was aborted before launch in 1983.

The 2003 disaster involving the space shuttle Columbia during its return from orbit is the most recent fatal incident in space exploration.

Russia's national space agency Roscosmos will perform an inspection of the Progress Rocket Space Center, where the Soyuz rocket in question was manufactured.

Comment: Indeed, and the investigation will be doubly intense given the ongoing one into how a hole or two was drilled all the way through the hull of the previous Soyuz to dock on the ISS in August: Cutting straight to the chase: if foul play is involved here, then all the motive in the world (and beyond) has been on full-frontal global display for all to see in the last few years: 'do whatever it takes to HURT RUSSIA'S IMAGE'.

Rogozin is currently traveling to Kazakhstan to inspect the landing site.

The military was also called in to help with rescue efforts, with army paratroopers being dropped in the area.
soyuz accident
"The rescue team had located the crew," sources on the ground confirmed, adding that both neither crew member required medical treatment.

Ovchinin and Hague were extracted from the capsule. They are in "good condition" and will be attended by psychologists, the medics reported.
soyuz capsule accident
NASA head Jim Bridenstine said in a statement that the men will be airlifted to the space training facility in the Moscow Region.

Some reports, however, suggest that the crewmen weren't left completely unscathed. Medics have examined Ovchinin and Hague and concluded that "their condition is not quite well," sources told TASS news agency.

Comment: They're fine:

The government is launching an official probe into the accident. President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were briefed on the situation.

"Thank God, the cosmonauts are alive - that is what matters," Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.