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

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U.S. space agency NASA said Thursday that a Russian rocket carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station made an emergency landing.

The occupants of the capsule located at the tip of the rocket were scheduled to undertake a six-hour journey to the International Space Station (ISS), where they would meet Expedition 57 crewmates Alexander Gerst, Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, and Sergey Valerievich. The launch appeared to be normal until around first stage separation, when the crew reported a "failure" with the booster and feeling weightlessness.

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the NASA team are monitoring the situation carefully".

The incident comes as the USA has been making progress in its quest to end Russia's monopoly on manned flights to the ISS by encouraging private companies to conduct launches.

The booster suffered a failure minutes after launch.

'The boosters on a second-stage launching vehicle switched off, ' sources at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where the launch took place, told Interfax news agency.

"The crew is returning to Earth in a ballistic descent mode".

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In December 2016, a Russian spacecraft carrying 2.6 tons of food, fuel and supplies - but no astronauts - to the International Space Station failed to reach orbit and largely burned up in the atmosphere as it fell back down.

Russian and United States space officials said the crew had to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan, and primed search and rescue crews ready to reach the expected landing site. Search and rescue crews are heading to the landing site.

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

Thursday's incident was the first launch mishap for a Russian Soyuz booster since an on-pad abort in August 1983, CBS reported.

The rocket is put into an emergency landing procedure in which the main module - holding all cargo and any astronauts on board - separates from the rocket early.

The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft is seen moments after blastoff.

Watch live updates from NASA here.

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