Russian Federation launches criminal probe after Soyuz rocket makes emergency landing

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The two astronauts-US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin-were reported to say they felt "weightlessness" as the crew capsule detached.

A U.S. astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut are alive after a failure during a mission to the International Space Station.

"Teams are working with our Russian partners to obtain more information about the issue with the booster from today's launch", the agency said.

Search and rescue teams were dispatched to the landing location and collected the astronauts who made it safely back.

The capsule jettisoned from the booster and went into a ballistic descent, landing at a sharper than normal angle.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who watched the launch at Baikonur along with his Russian counterpart, tweeted that Hague and Ovchinin are in good condition.

For now, the United States relies on Moscow to carry its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) which was launched 20 years ago.

International groups of astronauts often accompany each other to the International Space Station in joint launches.

The mission was supposed to be Hague's first trip into space, and Ovchinin's second six-month stay at the station.

Former military pilots Ovchinin and Hague were set to join Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, NASA's Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos following a six-hour flight.

"An investigative group has been formed and officials are now examining the launch site, documents are being seized", the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

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

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said no further manned missions would take place "until we believe that the entire situation guarantees safety". NASA and Roscosmos will now need to make an unprecedented decision which could lead to abandoning the International Space Station; the first time it would be left unmanned since the Expedition 1 mission arrived in November 2000.

Those precious few minutes of elation in Peabody quickly turned into an agonizing wait, as NASA confirmed there had been a booster problem with the rocket and the crew had to make an emergency exit.

Soyuz MS-11, which would have brought up three new crew members to relieve those already on the Station, was scheduled for liftoff on December 20th.

Rogozin was flying to the scene of the emergency landing, the space agency said. NASA's own transportation system, the commercial crew vehicles under development by SpaceX and Boeing, have yet to take uncrewed test flights to the station, and those are unlikely to occur before early 2019.

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