A two-man US-Russian crew of a Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station was safe following a dramatic emergency landing on Thursday shortly after liftoff in Kazakhstan when their rocket failed in mid-air.
US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin landed safely and rescue crews who raced to locate them on the Kazakh steppe quickly linked up with them, according to the US space agency NASA and Russia's space agency Roscosmos.
The emergency occurred as the first and second stages of a booster rocket separated shortly after launch from Kazakhstan's Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur.
The Soyuz capsule carrying the two men separated from the malfunctioning rocket and made what NASA called a steep ballistic descent to Earth with parachutes helping to slow its speed. A cloud of sand billowed up as the capsule came down on the desert steppe.
The capsule took 34 minutes to reach the ground after it separated from the faulty rocket, NASA said.