Two astronauts from the US and Russia are safe after an emergency landing Thursday in the steppes of Kazakhstan following the failure of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin lifted off as scheduled early Thursday from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz booster rocket. Roscosmos and NASA say the three-stage Soyuz booster suffered an emergency shutdown of its second stage minutes after the launch. The capsule jettisoned from the booster and went into a ballistic descent, landing at a sharper than normal angle, the AP reports.
The astronauts had been scheduled to dock at the ISS six hours after the launch. "Thank God, the crew is alive," Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when it became clear that the crew had landed safely. NASA and Russian Roscosmos said the astronauts were in good condition after their capsule landed about 12 miles east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. Search and rescue teams are heading to the area, some 280 miles northeast of the launch site, to recover the crew. (Read more Soyuz stories.)