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‘Complete confidence’: NASA astronaut praises Soyuz in 1st appearance after near-disaster

Astronaut Nick Hague, who was aboard the ill-fated Soyuz MS-10 last week, has praised the spacecraft’s designers and builders for the system that saved the crew’s lives when the rocket booster malfunctioned.

“This has only helped to solidify my appreciation for how robust that system is,” Hague told reporters on Tuesday, in his first press appearance since last week’s abortive launch to the International Space Station (ISS).

It was the first time in 35 years that the escape system had to be used, and it worked perfectly, Hague said. “That’s a testament to the commitment and the perseverance and the attention to detail that the constructors, the workers, everybody that’s involved with the Soyuz rocket and the Soyuz spacecraft,” he added.

“I'm not concerned with the Soyuz,” Hague said, adding that he had “complete confidence” in the ability of Roscosmos to keep the spacecraft running. The Soyuz, which was designed in the 1960s and modernized recently, is currently the only spacecraft available to carry humans into orbit.

Hague’s comments echoed the assessment of his colleague Reid Wiseman, a NASA astronaut and engineer who spent six months aboard the ISS in 2014. At a press conference last week, Wiseman called the Soyuz is a “robust” and “reliable” system, adding that NASA had “complete confidence in the Russians” to keep them going.

Last Thursday’s launch was supposed to deliver Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin to the ISS, but failed during the second-stage separation phase. The duo found themselves on a ballistic return to earth, making a landing in Kazakhstan.

“It went from normal to ‘something is wrong’ pretty quick,” Hague said, praising the actions of Ovchinin whom he described as “a seasoned, veteran cosmonaut.”

The Russian space agency Roscosmos is investigating the incident and may have the report ready as early as the end of this week.

Thursday’s launch was to be Hague’s first trip into space. Even if the Soyuz launches go back on track very soon, there is already a queue of astronauts and cosmonauts scheduled to fly up to the ISS, and Hague does not know when he will get another chance.

Having more spacecraft capable of delivering humans to orbit would be a welcome development, he told reporters, referring to the vehicles under development by Boeing and SpaceX. Their first test flights are scheduled for summer of 2019.

“I imagined that my first trip to outer space was going to be a memorable one,” Hague told reporters. “I didn't expect it to be quite this memorable.”

He is currently in Houston, Texas, spending time with his family and awaiting the next assignment.

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