This morning’s failure of a booster rocket carrying an astronaut and a cosmonaut to the International Space Station was followed by sighs of relief. American Nick Hague and Russian Alexey Ovchinin executed a ballistic abort procedure that subjected them to unusually high acceleration forces, but they landed safely.
The big question is what’s going to happen next. Since the grounding of the Space Shuttle, Soyuz capsules have been the only spacecraft able to carry people to the space station. Hague and Ovchinin were to join the three-person crew remaining on board as Expedition 57 after three others returned to Earth on 4 October. The three now on the station can operate it safely for the time being, but they were supposed to end their time aboard the vessel on 13 December. Before the mishap, the schedule called for a 20 December Soyuz launch that would have brought three new crew members to the station.