Astronaut Nick Hague (left) and Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: Roscosmos)
by Douglas Messier
It was bound to happen eventually.
At some point, the serious quality control issues that have caused an embarrassing series of Russian launch failures in recent years were bound to impact the nation’s effort to keep the International Space Station supplied with a steady stream of Russian and international crews.
And it was likely, but not inevitable, that any failure would shine a harsh spotlight on NASA’s lagging effort to replace the space shuttle, which was retired more than seven years ago. Underfunded by an indifferent Congress and plagued by years of technical problems and schedule delays, the agency’s Commercial Crew Program is still many months away from fielding a spacecraft capable of carrying a crew to the station.
On Wednesday, a malfunctioning Soyuz booster put a premature end to a planned six-month stay on the station for American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. The good news is they are safe and in good shape after their Soyuz MS-10 made an emergency landing in Kazakhstan. They reportedly experienced 6 to 7 times the force of gravity during a ballistic descent.