Rocket Failure Astronauts Will Go Back Up
Two astronauts who survived the mid-air failure of a Russian rocket will fly again and are provisionally set to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) early next year, the head of Russia's space agency says.
Dmitry Rogozin was speaking a day after Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American Nick Hague made a dramatic emergency landing in Kazakhstan after the failure of the Soyuz rocket carrying them to the ISS.
Thursday's accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launch pad explosion.
Russia is now under pressure to prove its space program is safe or face losing lucrative fees to carry US astronauts into space.
Moscow has suspended all manned space launches until it finds out what went wrong and Rogozin has ordered a state commission to investigate.
Russia's Investigative Committee has also opened a criminal investigation.
Sergei Krikalev, a senior Roscosmos official, said on Friday that Russia may also delay a planned unmanned cargo shipment by a Progress spacecraft to the ISS.
Unmanned cargo launches carry food and other supplies to the ISS and use the same rocket system as the Soyuz. Russia says there is enough food on board to last until April.
Three people are now aboard the space station: a German, a Russian and an American. They were due to return to Earth in December, but may now be stuck there at least until January.
Roscosmos chief Rogozin on Friday posted a picture on Twitter of himself seated next to the two astronauts involved, saying they had arrived in Moscow. Both men escaped unscathed and feel fine, Roscosmos said.
The Interfax news agency reports that an important valve failed to open due to a faulty firing cartridge.
That in turn had hindered the separation of the first stage of the rocket from its second stage.