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‘Concrete block on your chest’: astronauts recount failed space launch

‘Like a concrete block on your chest’: Astronauts reveal what they went through during miraculous escape during failed Soyuz space launch

  •  Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague are now in ‘great’ health, the pair said, speaking about the launch
  • Ovochinin told reporters to ‘imagine that somebody put a big concrete block on your chest that is seven times your weight’ 
  • Hague says he and his crewmate grinned at touchdown, shook hands and then joked about their short flight 
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Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin said the G-force during last week’s emergency landing of the Soyuz spacecraft felt like a concrete block on his chest but he and NASA astronaut Nick Hague are now in ‘great’ health.

Ovchinin and Hague were forced to make an emergency landing after an accident on their rocket minutes after blast-off to the International Space Station, with the rapid deceleration subjecting them to a painful G-force overload.

Hague says he and his crewmate grinned at touchdown, shook hands and then joked about their short flight as the pair recounted their brief mission.

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NASA astronaut Nick Hague (right) and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin (left) will now provisionally travel to the International Space Station (ISS) in spring 2019

In an interview with state Rossiya-24 television, Ovchinin said that ‘the direction of this (G-force) overload during the descent was from the chest to the back, so imagine that somebody put a big concrete block on your chest that is seven times your weight.’

The 47-year-old cosmonaut who has already flown into space once before in 2016, nevertheless said that the G-force was ‘not that big, a bit less than 7G.’

7G is below what cosmonauts have to withstand during training and has not caused long-term ill-effects.

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‘I am feeling well, so is my colleague, US astronaut Nick Hague,’ Ovchinin said.

‘The doctors concluded that our health is good, even great.’

Hague said he first noticed ‘being shaken fairly violently side to side as that safety system pulled us away from the rocket.’ 

He says he’d rather be in orbit, getting ready for a spacewalk, but is grateful to be alive. 

In this frame from video from NASA TV, NASA astronaut Nick Hague, who survived the Oct. 11, 2018, failed launch and emergency landing, speaks Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, from the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. Hague and Russian Alexei Ovchinin were two minutes into their flight last Thursday from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station when the Soyuz rocket failed. (NASA TV via AP)

The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan October 11, 2018.

Both are now waiting for the results of an investigation into why the Soyuz rocket malfunctioned and never made it to the International Space Station, forcing Ovchinin to command a ballistic descent back to Earth amid a communication breakdown with mission control.

Ovchinin said he and Hague understood something was wrong when emergency lights came on in the cabin.

‘Your training really takes over,’ Hague told reporters during a Q&A streamed online by NASA.

‘For the most part, the rescue system worked automatically, and we just followed the system,’ according to Ovchinin.

In footage of the flight released by the Russian space agency Roscosmos Ovchinin can be heard calmly telling mission control that there has been an ‘accident’ and even quipping about a particularly ‘short flight’ before the feed is cut off.

‘There was no time to be nervous, because we had to work,’ he said.

‘We had to go through the steps that crew has to take and prepare for emergency landing … so that the crew is still functioning after landing.’

NASA’s Hague has already flown back to the United States following the landing, after undergoing a medical check and being questioned about the accident.

He is of course disappointed not to be in space, having trained two years for the mission.

Aleksey Ovchinin and Nick Hague are now waiting for the results of a probe into why the Soyuz rocket malfunctioned

‘I was supposed to be doing a spacewalk two days from now,’ he said. ‘But life doesn’t always give you a vote.’

‘When NASA wants me to fly, I´m ready to go,’ he said, including aboard the Soyuz, currently the only vehicle capable of taking humans into space.

The failure ‘only helped to solidify my appreciation for how robust that system is,’ Hague said. ‘That system hadn’t been tested in 35 years, but we tested it last week, and it’s ready.’

‘That’s a testament to the commitment and the perseverance and the attention to the details’ of the teams involved with Soyuz, he said.

How do you make an emergency landing in a Soyuz rocket? Two astronauts’ dramatic 7G, 4,970mph ballistic re-entry

The astronauts of the Soyuz MS-10 are said to have switched into ‘ballistic descent mode’ once they were notified of the second stage booster fault.

This means the core automatically separated from the faulty booster and turned back to Earth.

The rocket came in at a much sharper angle than normal, allowing the craft to head as quickly as possible to the ground.

It is believed the rocket was travelling at more than 8,000 miles per hour (12,800kph) during its descent.

The astronauts would have experienced G-force pressure as high as 7Gs.

Rockets use boosters to provide the thrust they need to launch from Earth and breech the atmosphere.

They set the trajectory for the flight, and if they aren’t running at full capacity could send the rocket in completely the wrong direction.

The Soyuz MS-10 rocket had four first-stage boosters strapped to its central core, which housed the second stage booster.

A booster can fail for any number of reasons, including incorrect fuelling, mechanical faults, computer glitches and more.

In the event of a booster failure, mission control will normally cancel the flight to avoid endangering the astronauts on board.

The rocket is put into an emergency landing procedure in which the main module – holding all cargo and any astronauts on board – separates from the rocket early. 

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