NASA astronaut finally on board ISS after scary aborted launch in 2018

Nick Hague and a Russian colleague had to be thrown clear of a malfunctioning rocket last year. Today, they're safely in orbit.

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Eric Mack
2 min read
Expedition 59 Launch

A Soyuz rocket carrying astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin lifts off from Kazakhstan on Thursday. 

NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are now getting settled into the International Space Station after four orbits of Earth and several hours aboard a Soyuz spacecraft that launched earlier Thursday.

Hague and Ovchinin saw their previous attempt to visit the ISS last year aborted when an emergency maneuver violently swung them clear of catastrophe.

On Oct. 11, the pair made an uncontrolled "ballistic descent" back toward Earth after their Soyuz rocket's first-stage boosters failed to separate properly. The onboard computer automatically triggered an escape motor that basically shoots the Soyuz crew capsule to the side and out of harm's way.

After making it safely to the ground, Hague described the escape maneuver as "fairly aggressive but fleeting."    

Watch this: Watch the moment that Russian rocket failed midflight

It was a very different scene Thursday when Soyuz lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:14 p.m. PT. Everything went off normally and the spacecraft carrying Hague, Ovchinin and another astronaut, Christina Koch, went into orbit several minutes later.

The trio makes up the Expedition 59 crew that joined three others already on board the ISS when the Russian craft docked with the station at 6:01 p.m. PT Thursday.

The Soyuz has been the only vehicle capable of delivering crew to the ISS since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011, but that could soon change. SpaceX completed its first uncrewed demonstration mission using its Crew Dragon spacecraft Friday. The first crewed flight of the new capsule to the ISS could take place in July. Boeing's Starliner spacecraft is also set to undertake its first demonstration flights soon.

After a brief investigation, the Soyuz flew again for the first time following the accident on Dec. 3, carrying the current crew that welcomed Hague, Koch and Ovchinin Thursday.


NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Hammock Koch, and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos


Originally published March 8.
Updates, March 14: This story has been updated throughout to reflect the launch and Soyuz arrival at the ISS Thursday.