Two astronauts who survived the mid-air failure of a Russian rocket will fly again and are provisionally set to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) in spring of next year, the head of Russia’s space agency said on Friday.
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, was speaking a day after Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American Nick Hague made a dramatic emergency landing in Kazakhstan after the failure of the Soyuz rocket carrying them to the orbital ISS.
Thursday’s accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launch pad explosion.
Russia is now under pressure to prove its space program is safe and received a boost on Friday when NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said he had full confidence in Russian-made Soyuz rockets and expected U.S. astronauts to fly on them again.
Bridenstine, speaking to reporters in Moscow, also said he was confident that a planned Soyuz launch in December, which is due to transport three people, including one American, to the $100 billion orbital research laboratory, would happen.
Still, Moscow has suspended all manned space launches until it confirms exactly what went wrong and why, and Rogozin has ordered a state commission to investigate. Russian investigators have also opened a criminal investigation.
Sergei Krikalev, a senior Roscosmos official, said on Friday that Russia may also delay a planned unmanned cargo shipment by a Progress spacecraft to the ISS. Unmanned cargo launches carry food and other supplies to the ISS and use the same rocket system as the Soyuz. Russia says there is enough food on board to last until April.
Three people are now aboard the space station: a German, a Russian and an American. They were due to return to Earth in December, but may now be stuck there longer.
Source: Radio Pakistan