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Two astronauts from the US and Russia are safe after an emergency landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan, following the failure of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian Roscosmos space agency's Alexei Ovchinin lifted off as scheduled from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz booster rocket.
Roscosmos and NASA said the three-stage Soyuz booster suffered an emergency shutdown of its second stage. The capsule jettisoned from the booster and went into a ballistic descent, landing at a sharper than normal angle and subjecting the crew to heavy g-forces.
NASA said rescue teams had reached Mr Hague and Mr Ovchinin, and they had been taken out of the capsule and were in good condition.
The capsule landed about 20 kilometres east of the city of Dzhezkazgan, in Kazakhstan.
The launch failure marks an unprecedented mishap for the Russian space program, which has been dogged by a string of launch failures and other incidents in recent years.
"Thank God, the crew is alive," Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters when it became clear that the crew had landed safely. He added that Mr Putin was receiving regular updates about the situation.
The astronauts were to dock at the International Space Station six hours after the launch, but the Soyuz booster suffered an unspecified failure and shut down minutes after the launch.
Search and rescue teams were immediately scrambled to recover the crew and other paratroopers were dropped from a plane to reach the site and help the rescue effort.
Dzhezkazgan is about 450 kilometres northeast of Baikonur. Spacecraft returning from the ISS normally land in that region.
Footage from inside the Soyuz showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, with their arms and legs flailing. Major Ovchinin, the Russian cosmonaut, can be heard saying: "That was a quick flight."
Photographs later released by Roscosmos after the rescue showed the two astronauts smiling and relaxing on sofas at a town near their landing site as they underwent medical tests. Interfax said they would spend one night in hospital.
Great job by the Russian company!
Take-off of the aborted spaceflight
They are saying sabotage!
Though, that may be political.
I doubt that very much! But it is fashionable to be anti Russian.
No, the Russians are claiming sabotage!
While the two men landed safely, the aborted mission dealt another blow to the troubled Russian space program.
It also was the first such accident for Russia's manned program in over three decades.
As a result, Russia has launched a criminal investigation into the rocket failure.
Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said Russia would fully share all relevant information with the US, which pays up to $82 million per ride to the space station.
"I hope that the American side will treat it with understanding," he said.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have sunk to post-Cold War lows over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential vote, but they have kept cooperating in space.