MOSCOW: The aborted launch of a Soyuz rocket with US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin on Thursday was the first such accident in the history of manned launches in modern Russia.
Two similar aborted launches — during which the crews had a close brush with death but miraculously survived — took place during the Soviet Union era in 1975 and 1983.
– September 1983 –
On September 27, 1983, a Soyuz T-10 rocket was scheduled to take Russian cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov to the Salyut space station.
During the final seconds of the countdown, the launch vehicle caught fire and the automatic abort sequence failed.
Flight controllers manually aborted the mission, activating the capsule’s escape tower.
The two were pulled away from the flame-engulfed rocket and landed safely several kilometres from the launch vehicle, which apparently exploded seconds after the Soyuz separated.
The two men were subjected to g-forces of 15 to 17-g upon re-entry to Earth but sustained no injuries during the flight which lasted just over five minutes.
– April 1975 –
On April 5, 1975, cosmonauts Vasily Lazarev and Oleg Makarov were scheduled to go on a two-month expedition to the Salyut space station.
They had just blasted off from Kazakhstan when the third stage of their rocket failed to break away.
The mission was quickly aborted and the crew landed in the Altai mountains near the Chinese border, experiencing excruciatingly painful deceleration forces of more than 20-g while re-entering Earth’s atmosphere
The g-forces they experienced were so powerful that their hearts stopped briefly and they suffered loss of vision.
Finally they made a rough landing with their capsule getting caught in some bushes.
The crew feared they would be captured by the Chinese but were discovered by Russian locals. The total flight time was 21 minutes 27 seconds.
Lazarev suffered internal injuries and never flew again but Makarov went into orbit twice more.
The harrowing accident went down in history as the world’s first manned space launch abort.—AFP