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Astronauts safe after failed rocket launch, emergency bail-out

An American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut were forced to abort their mission to the International Space Station on Thursday, after a rocket failure mid-flight. Both are safe after parachuting back to the ground. (Image source: Video screencap)

Two astronauts had to make an emergency landing Thursday after the rocket that was supposed to carry them to the International Space Station puttered out mid-flight.

What happened?

American Nick Hague and Russian Aleksey Ovchinin were en route to the ISS when the secondary booster rocket on the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft they were in malfunctioned, forcing the two to abort the mission and parachute in a vessel back to the ground.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement saying he was "grateful that everyone is safe" and that "a thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted."

The mission was supposed to be Hague's first trip into space, and Ovchinin's second six-month stay at the station. The crew bailed out at an altitude of 164,000 feet and landed safely in Kazakhstan.

ABC News reported that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov announced that all manned launches will be suspended until the investigation is complete and the cause of the rocket's failure can be pin-pointed.

Russian Soyuz are currently the only vehicle used to carry astronauts to the orbiting Space Station, after the U.S. retired its space shuttle fleet. Three Americans, two Russians and one German are currently aboard the station.

While tensions between the United States and Russia have been strained politically, the two countries still work together in space research. Last month, the current ISS crew discovered a hole in the vessel that Russia claims was drilled deliberately.

The astronauts were able to patch the air leak, and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev posted footage from onboard to reassure people back on Earth that the crew was doing just fine. "As you can see, everything is calm on board; we are living in peace and friendship as always," he said.

During a trip to Moscow this week, Bridenstine emphasized the importance of continuing to work with Russia's NASA equivalent, Roscosmos. "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, as reported by the Associated Press.

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