Photos taken after rocket failure prove spaceflight is never routine

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The Soyuz rocket and its Soyuz MS-10 space capsule lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at about 4:47 a.m. EDT (0847 GMT) with NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin aboard.

Bridenstine said experts have a "really good idea" of what caused the booster to malfunction about two minutes into Thursday's launch with NASA's Tyler N. "Nick" Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin aboard.

A Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut were recovered unharmed early Thursday after the Soyuz booster they were aboard on a launch to the International Space Station failed.

The crew returned to Earth in "ballistic descent mode", which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal and during which they would have experienced high G forces.

USA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin parachuted to the ground safely in their capsule after a booster on the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft failed, NASA and Russia's space agency said. The capsule landed about 20 kilometres east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. You know the complexity of returning a capsule [with the crew] which should be jettisoned from the engine and land with the use of a parachute.

"Thank God the cosmonauts are alive", Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

"The crew landed", Dmitry Rogozin, director of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said on Twitter.

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Relations between Moscow and Washington have sunk to post-Cold War lows over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 United States presidential vote, but they have kept cooperating in space. For this reason, the Soyuz capsule rotates on its axis of trajectory during descent to boost stability (similar to a bullet fired from a rifle), it adds.

NASA says it chose Hague as an astronaut in 2013 and completed training in 2015; he had been scheduled to perform at least two spacewalks as part of his mission on the space station.

The European Space Agency, whose astronaut Alexander Gerst is on the ISS, said in a statement that "the aborted launch will have influence on the planning for the near future". Last month, the current ISS crew discovered a hole in the vessel that Russian Federation claims was drilled deliberately.

"We don't have an opportunity to extend it for a long time", Krikalyov said. But Peggy Whitson, a retired NASA astronaut who survived a ballistic re-entry in a Soyuz capsule in 2008, described the experience as a harrowing one in an interview with The Houston Chronicle later that year.

Glitches found in Russia's Proton and Soyuz rockets in 2016 were traced to manufacturing flaws at the plant in Voronezh.

A source in the Russian space agency said that rescue workers had reached the crew.

While a Roscosmos-led commission investigates the root cause of this failure, NASA and ISS partners will review upcoming operational schedules, including two planned spacewalks later this month.