Soyuz rocket fails mid-air, ISS crew safe

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Two astronauts from the US and Russia were safe after an emergency landing Thursday in the steppes of Kazakhstan following the failure of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station.

"Teams have confirmed the spacecraft separated from the booster and are in contact with the crew as the capsule returns in a ballistic decent mode", NASA reported.

The Soyuz was carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague, making his first spaceflight, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, making his second.

A Soyuz failure could jeopardize continued operation of the International Space Station. Search and rescue crews are getting ready to reach the expected landing site.

Russian news agencies, citing sources, report that both Soyuz crew members are alive and uninjured after an emergency landing in Kazakhstan following the on-schedule launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

"Shortly after launch, there was an issue with the booster".

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In 2015, he was selected to participate in a space food taste test, sampling some 160 dishes designed for astronauts and cosmonauts on board the International Space Station.

Search and rescue teams were heading to the area to recover the crew.

Rockets use boosters to provide the thrust they need to launch from Earth and breech the atmosphere.

Ovchinin, 47, is a major in the Russian Air Force who made his first spaceflight in 2016.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have sunk to post-Cold War lows over the crisis in Ukraine, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential vote, but Russia and the U.S. have maintained cooperation in space.