Soyuz MS-10: Russian spacecraft makes emergency landing on Earth

KAZAKHSTAN -Two astronauts from the USA and Russia made an emergency landing early Thursday morning when a Russian rocket booster that was taking them to the International Space Station failed after launch.

The crew remains in good condition and in touch with ground rescue teams, according to NASA.

By early Thursday afternoon, Ovchinin and Hague were on helicopters, making their way back to Baikonur, NASA said.

Just over two minutes into the flight of the latest Soyuz rocket, delivering crew members to the International Space Station, the booster suffered some kind of in-flight accident, as debris was spotted in the rocket's wake during live coverage of the launch.

Nasa says the search and rescue teams have reached the landing site and the crew are out of the Soyuz capsule.

The Soyuz system has a long history of reliable launches.

The International Space Station - a rare point of cooperation between Moscow and Washington - has been orbiting the Earth since 1998.

"The boys have landed", Mission Control assured the International Space Station crew.

Russian Soyuz are now the only vehicle used to carry astronauts to the orbiting Space Station, after the US retired its space shuttle fleet.

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Hague and Ovchinin were scheduled to dock at the International Space Station six hours after launch.

Hague, who only joined NASA's astronaut corps in 2013, was on his first space mission.

The current iteration of the manned Soyuz booster, the Soyuz-FG, had until today boasted a 100 percent success rate.

The rocket was launched from the Soviet-era cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

A state commission set up by Roscosmos to investigate the cause of the incidence is already hard at work assessing telemetry. "A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted alongside an official statement on the Soyuz MS-10 Launch Abort.

But the three - a German, a Russian and an American - might have to stay on the space station into next year due the crash, Interfax quoted a source as saying. This is especially tricky, as the new batteries arrived later than expected after a series of launch delays from the Japanese cargo vehicle they were on.

There are a few potential alternatives to leaving the ISS without a crew for the first time in almost 20 years, but given the risk-adverse nature of human spaceflight, it seems unlikely NASA or Roscosmos will want to tempt fate on any of them. As a result of the defect, the spacecraft would not be heading to the ISS, but instead return to Earth using a "ballistic descent mode".

It was not immediately clear what caused the failure.

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