Soyuz rocket carrying astronauts forced into emergency landing after malfunction

American, Russian alive after Soyuz rocket headed to space station fails on launch

US and Russian astronauts were forced to make an emergency landing Thursday after their booster rocket failed in mid-air en route to the International Space Station moments after the launch, according to NASA.

Gerst tweeted his relief that the two astronauts were safe, saying the day's events "showed again what an incredible vehicle the Soyuz is, to be able to save the crew from such a failure".

The launch took place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:40 pm.

"The launch had a problem with the booster (rocket) a few seconds after the first stage separation and we can confirm now that the crew has started to go into ballistic descent mode", the voiceover on a NASA livestream from mission control in Houston said.

Rescue crews raced to the scene to retrieve them from their landing spot, including paratroopers, helicopters and all-terrain vehicles, NASA said. Those questions not only include what happened to make the Soyuz launch fail, but how NASA, Roscosmos, and the ESA will need to change the ISS schedule to accommodate today's failure.

The failure is the latest mishap for the Russian space programme, which has been dogged by a string of launch failures and other incidents.

The head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, said that it was creating a state commission to investigate the cause of the crash, and deputy prime minister Yuri Borisov announced that Russian Federation would be suspending manned flights until the incident could be reviewed.

Photographs later released by Roscosmos after the rescue showed the two astronauts smiling and relaxing on sofas at a town near their landing site as they underwent medical tests.

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"The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is the only vehicle which is now able to send astronauts to space and bring them home form the International Space Station and it has been doing this for decades". Ovchinin spent six months on the orbiting outpost in 2016.

"I strongly believe we're going to get the right answer to what caused the hole on the International Space Station and that together we'll be able to continue our strong collaboration", Bridenstine said on a visit to Moscow this week, according to the Associated Press. A "launch escape system" - a rocket mounted above the capsule - pulled the capsule away from the rocket seconds before an explosion. NASA says it selected him as an astronaut in 2013; he completed training in 2015 and had been scheduled to perform at least two spacewalks as part of his mission on the space station.

Manned space launches have been suspended pending an investigation.

Luckily, these crew members will not be stranded on the space station, as they will return to earth in the capsules they traveled to the station in.

Russian Federation has continued to rely on Soviet-designed booster rockets for commercial satellites, as well as crews and cargo to the space station.

Just over a minute after the launch, the spacecraft's booster failed and the launch was aborted.

While there is another Soyuz capsule docked at the station, Hadfield said using it to send the current crew home would not be under consideration.

Interfax quoted a source as saying the crash meant the three people aboard the space station - a German and a Russian in addition to the American - would be stuck there at least until January.

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