What it feels to be in a spacecraft that fails to launch; NASA astronaut’s account

NASA Astronaut Nick Hague

Describing the closest call of his career when the launch of the Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station was aborted due to an anomaly, NASA astronaut Nick Hague said that the space capsule violently ripped from the damaged rocket shortly after liftoff, then with lights flashing and alarms sounding plunged steeply back to Earth with punishing force.

In a conversation with Jim Bridenstine, the NASA Administrator, via satellite Nick Hague said that he and Russian crewmate Alexey Ovchinin were flung from side to side and shoved back hard into their seats, as the drama unfolded 50 kilometres above Kazakhstan last Thursday.

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They however, made a safe ballistic landing in Kazakhstan on Oct. 11,

One of the four strap-on boosters failed to separate properly two minutes into the flight to the International Space Station and apparently struck the core rocket stage, resulting instantaneously in a rare launch abort.

The astronauts experienced a few moments of weightlessness after their Soyuz capsule catapulted away from the rocket. Hague, making his first launch, saw the curvature of Earth and the blackness of space.

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Between the abort and touchdown, Hague looked out the window to make sure the capsule’s systems were operating properly and to check their landing. They braced for the extreme force—seven times the force of gravity—of the unusually steep descent and the shock of the parachutes popping open.

They landed on the smooth, flat terrain of Kazakhstan. Neither man was injured.

“You can imagine the scene,” Hague said. “We’re kind of hanging upside-down from our straps … and we looked at each other, big grins. He holds out a hand. I shake his hand. And then we start cracking a few jokes between us about how short our flight was.”

 

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