A two-man US-Russian crew of a Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station was safe following a dramatic emergency landing on Thursday shortly after liftoff in Kazakhstan when their rocket failed in mid-air. There was an issue with the booster from today's launch.
Gerst took the opportunity to point out that the Soyuz spacecraft is "an awesome vehicle", as it was able to save the crew after its booster failure.
"Thank God, the crew is alive", Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, told reporters when it became clear the crew had landed safely.
NASA said it was dusting off plans which would allow it to operate the space station without a crew. "The emergency rescue systems of the MS-Soyuz spacecraft worked smoothly". "Today showed again what an awesome vehicle the Soyuz is, to be able to save the crew from such a failure".
"It's like shooting a bullet out of a rifle barrel", said NASA deputy chief astronaut Reid Wiseman during a press briefing.
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But it is also unlikely any Soyuz missions will fly for a while now until both NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, have got to the bottom of what went wrong today.
To cope with the delay, the next ISS crew might remain aboard the station longer than the usual six months. The three-person crew was subjected to gravity forces of about eight times Earth's gravity for up to two minutes.
It was an unprecedented mishap for the Russian space programme and a criminal investigation is now under way to determine whether safety regulations had been violated during construction.
A terrifying video shows the moment that two crew members fear for their lives as they are jolted up and down in the cockpit. Russian officials have also insisted on a bigger role in a USA -led plan to build a space station orbiting the moon.
"The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is the only vehicle which is now able to send astronauts to space and bring them home form the International Space Station and it has been doing this for decades".
Back in 2015 Progress spacecraft - unmanned transport spacecraft that sent supplies to the ISS - had problems on launchers similar to the Soyuz rocket that experienced problems on Thursday.
Glitches found in Russia's Proton and Soyuz rockets in 2016 were traced to manufacturing flaws. Roscosmos sent more than 70 rocket engines back to production lines to replace faulty components, a move that resulted in a yearlong break in Proton launches and badly dented Russia's niche in the global market for commercial satellite launches.