U.S., Russian Space Crew Heading Back To Earth After Booster Failure

Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, left and NASA astronaut Nick Hague walk to the van that carried them to their rocket at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 11, 2018.

The rocket was launched from the Soviet-era cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Search-and-rescue teams were headed to the area where the capsule was expected to come down for what a NASA TV announcer said was likely to be a "hard landing".

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"The emergency rescue system worked, the vessel was able to land in Kazakhstan ... the crew are alive", Roscosmos said in a tweet.

An American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut returned safely to Earth Thursday after a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station failed shortly after launch. Soyuz is now the only means for crews to travel to and from the station, with commercial crew vehicles by Boeing and SpaceX not expected to be ready to enter service before the middle of 2019.

A Soyuz failure could jeopardize continued operation of the International Space Station.

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"Teams have been in contact with the crew".

They were to dock at the International Space Station six hours later, but the booster suffered engine failure minutes after the launch.

Normally this only happens once the boosters have fired the module into space, and the capsule then completes the final part of the journey alone.

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