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Their arms and legs flail while being shaken around at he moment the failure occurred.

About two minutes after launching, the three-stage Soyuz booster rocket suffered an unspecified failure of its second stage.

Search and rescue teams were dispatched to the landing location and collected the astronauts who made it safely back.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin's spokesman, put it more bluntly in his daily conference call with journalists: "Thank God everyone is alive".

At that point, the crew capsule automatically fired engines that carried it and the astronauts away from the troubled booster and its giant stash of extremely flammable rocket fuel. Nasa has been paying for seats on Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to the International Space Station since the Space Shuttle programme ended in 2011.

The two astronauts were to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) six hours after the launch to join an American, a Russian and a German now aboard the station.

Two astronauts, one American and one Russian, made a successful emergency landing on the ground in Kazakhstan after the rocket carrying them to the International Space Station experienced a malfunction. Russia launches criminal probe over failed rocket launch Russian investigators said they had opened a criminal probe into the failed rocket launch that caused the two-man crew to make an emergency landing.

It's obviously worth noting that the Soyuz rocket is a completely separate piece of hardware from the Soyuz crew capsule, and something like the hole found in the crew capsule now attached to the International Space Station couldn't possibly result in a failure of a rocket booster.

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However, Thursday's incident was the first manned launch failure since 1983 when a Soyuz rocket exploded in the launch area. But it will need to be staffed before SpaceX or Boeing launches its new crew capsules next year, Todd said.

A tweet from Roscosmos shows the two astronauts resting comfortably, and looking like they're in good spirits, despite what must have been a hard experience.

A booster failure during a Soyuz rocket launch forced the two crew members to abort their mission to the International Space Station and return to Earth in the first such emergency landing for the Russian-built spacecraft since 1975.

In the event of a booster failure, mission control will normally cancel the flight to avoid endangering the astronauts on board.

What happens next: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted a statement in which he confirmed that the crew was safe and that NASA was monitoring the situation carefully.

Upon arrival, the two new crew members were scheduled to be welcomed by Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, the expedition's commander, as well as Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.

Russian officials said all manned space flight missions would be suspended until investigators figure out what went wrong. This was Ovchinin's second trip to the station, and Hague's first trip.

But the three - a German, a Russian and an American - might have to stay on the space station into next year due the crash, Interfax quoted a source as saying.