An American and Russian astronaut are "in great shape" after the rocket they boarded suffered a malfunction on its way to the International Space Station, forcing an emergency landing.
An investigation will take place into what happened with the rocket, which entered an abort phase just after booster separation, NASA officials said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
The incident began with a booster emergency light illuminating in the ship of NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos astronaut Alexei Ovchinin. Abort motors kicked in after that, propelling the capsule and its crew from the boosters.
The spacecraft then went into a "ballistic reentry," said NASA deputy chief astronaut Reid Wiseman, similar to "shooting a bullet out of a rifle barrel."
The astronauts experienced rotation six to seven times Earth's gravity before making their way back down to Earth, landing roughly 12 miles east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
Search and rescue teams from Russia arrived as soon as the spacecraft touched ground to assist the astronauts.
"From everything we have seen, the crew is in great shape," Wiseman said.
NASA posted pictures of Hague and Ovchinin undergoing a medical check-up at Dzhezkazgan’s airport. One photo showed Hague smiling, and another showed him next to Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s space agency chief.
Wiseman said although crews are always ready for potential issues, "certainly there is a bit of shock in there for a moment, but communication with the crew was extremely professional."
Both astronauts are with family members and medical professionals in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, and will eventually return to Moscow where the astronauts receive training.
"The crew handled their procedures exactly as planned," said Wiseman.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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