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The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft is launched with Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA and Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, Oct. 11. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA is citing an issue with a Russian Soyuz booster rocket as the cause of the aborted launch of a rocket carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, two minutes after takeoff from Russia Thursday morning.

Details: The rocket reached about 31 miles in altitude — just below the boundary of space — when the failure occurred, Deputy Chief Astronaut Reid Wiseman said during a press conference Thursday. The crew landed approximately 11 miles outside of Zhezqazghan, a small city in central Kazakhstan. NASA officials praised Russian rescue efforts for retrieving both crews safely.

  • Neither crew was injured in the process. Wiseman told reporters, "The crew experienced about 6-7 times Earth's gravity, which is not insignificant, but from everything we've seen, the crew's in great shape, they're in biking order, they're healthy."
  • The current International Space Station crew, commanded by Alexander Gerst, will stay put and can get resupplied while NASA decides the next steps.

The big picture: The Soyuz rocket is currently the only way U.S. astronauts can access low Earth orbit, pending the certification of SpaceX and Boeing's spacecraft for the Commercial Crew program, which won't come for at least another year.

  • When asked about the U.S.-Russia relationship moving forward, Kenny Todd, International Space Station operations integration manager, responded: "Clearly over the last 7 years we have relied on the Russians to get our astronauts to space and that partnership has just continued to grow. ... We're very proud of the relationship that we have here at NASA and with our Rococosmos. When it comes to technical issues, they really don't know political boundaries ... we've made a lot of good things happen."

What's next: Todd explained that the Russian agency is setting up an investigation into what caused the failure, but added that they do not suspect criminal activity. The group running the investigation "will be tasked with trying to understand exactly what happened and what recovery efforts are needed in order to get flying again," Todd said.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to indicate the Soyuz rocket is manufactured and operated by Russia.

Go deeper

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Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

1 hour ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

2 hours ago - Health

Africa CDC: Vaccines likely won't be available until Q2 of 2021

Africa CDC director Dr. John Nkengasong. Photo: Mohammed Abdu Abdulbaqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Africa may have to wait until the second quarter of 2021 to roll out vaccines, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available,” Nkengasong said.