Local

Kansas native gets another chance at outer space after rocket failure

The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-10 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Two astronauts from the U.S. and Russia were safe Thursday after an emergency landing 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 at 2:40 p.m. (0840 GMT; 4:40 a.m. EDT) Thursday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but their Soyuz booster rocket failed about two minutes after the launch. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-10 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Two astronauts from the U.S. and Russia were safe Thursday after an emergency landing 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 at 2:40 p.m. (0840 GMT; 4:40 a.m. EDT) Thursday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but their Soyuz booster rocket failed about two minutes after the launch. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky) AP

Nick Hague says he is ready to launch again.

Hague, an astronaut and native of Hoxie, Kan., was inside a Soyuz MS10 rocket that failed about two minutes into launch in October.

The mission: a six-month stay on the International Space Station.

Now Hague is scheduled to launch again — bound for a new six-month mission aboard the station — on Feb. 28, 2019, aboard a Soyuz MS12 spacecraft.

The rocket is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:42 p.m. CST that day.

Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, who was also aboard the failed rocket, will join the mission, as well as NASA astronaut Christina Hammock Koch. Koch is making her first flight to the station.

They will take part in about 250 different research experiments and technology demonstrations made possible by micro-gravity conditions inside the station.

They will join Anne McClain of NASA, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos — returning the station to its normal six-member crew.

Hague, Ovchinin and Koch will return to Earth in October 2019.

Hague feels “extremely fortunate to get this opportunity,” he said in a phone interview from NASA headquarters.

“It’s a chance to still chase that dream,” said Hague, who also serves as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. “You spend so much time preparing for a mission like that, so many years ... and to watch it all slip out of your reach in a moment — that’s pretty disappointing.

“It’s really nice to be able to, in pretty short order, get back at it.”

The rocket failure

Hague was selected to become a NASA astronaut in 2013 and has been in training ever since.

He was selected for a mission aboard the International Space Station alongside his Russian partner, Ovchinin — and that rocket was set to launch on Oct. 11, 2018.

Shortly after launch that day, the rocket’s booster malfunctioned — a rare failure for the Soyuz rocket, which had developed a reputation for being ultra-reliable.

“Essentially the rocket came apart underneath us,” Hague said.

Hague and Ovchinin were able to successfully abort the mission and make a “ballistic descent” back to Earth in a capsule.

Despite experiencing G-forces as high as 6.7 Gs “for half a dozen seconds,” Hague said, the two “walked away unscathed ... other than a bump or a bruise here.”

“That’s a testament to the machine protecting us and maybe a little bit of luck on our part,” Hague told The Eagle. “I was back working out in the gym two days later when I was back here in Houston.”

Hague’s extended family watched the failed rocket launch overnight at a Peabody, Kan., bar, alongside NASA astronaut Victor Glover.

A manned Soyuz rocket failed shortly after launch early Thursday morning, and its crew, which included Kansas-born NASA astronaut Nick Hague, had to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan.

Hague said one thing has surprised him in the last couple months — “and, I guess, thinking back it shouldn’t have been surprising.”

“Almost to an individual, all of the friends and family back there in Kansas, once they knew I was safe, said, ‘Hey, we know you didn’t get it this time and we know you’re disappointed, but we can’t wait for you to launch again.’

“We didn’t know what caused the failure at that point in time, and they were expressing their support for me to get back on another rocket and make this work. It shouldn’t have been surprising, because that’s who we are — we don’t give up when there’s a little bit of adversity. ... It’s been reaffirming to see all of the support, the wave of support that’s come in from across Kansas.”

He said he’s looking forward to this new mission even more than his previous one, partially because of the addition of Koch to the crew. She and Hague were part of the same astronaut class at NASA.

“We learned everything together,” he said. “It’s going to be even more special to be able to float through the hatch of the Space Station for the first time, to share that together.”

RUSSIA.JPG
U.S. astronaut Nick Hague embraces his wife, Catie, after landing at the Krayniy Airport in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Bill Ingalls/NASA Courtesy photo

But why go up again? Why risk it?

“What we’re doing is making advancements for all of humanity,” he said. “My parents ... didn’t raise me to give up when there’s a little bit of adversity. They’re the ones who instilled in me it’s a life of service, looking out for others and being part of something that’s larger than yourself. It’s the same type of philosophy that was instilled in me going through K-12 education there in Kansas. ... You’ve got to be dedicated to others. That’s just the way I was raised.”

Hague is the fourth Kansan to have flown into space.

Follow Hague’s journey to the station on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @AstroHague.

Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.


  Comments