NASA Astronaut Nick Hague’s first mission earned him a place in the spotlight as one of a handful of astronauts to survive a spaceflight anomaly. That position and experience, makes Hague a source of knowledge to fellow astronauts, NASA, Roscosmos, other space agencies, and commercial space companies.
On October 11, 2018, just minutes after launch, Hague and crewmate, Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin, were forced to make an emergency landing while family, flight crews, and online viewers watched from around the globe.
The anomaly, an abnormal separation of one of the first stage boosters that went on to collide with the second stage rocket, brought a swift end to the Soyuz rocket, the mission, and Hague’s chance at space travel- but not for good.
After a couple months spent describing the launch abort experience to various agencies, NASA announced Hague will fly aboard a new mission, giving him a second chance at space. Now Hague talks about his decision to launch again and why he has so much confidence in the Soyuz systems.
Following a NASA press briefing, where Hague and crewmate, NASA astronaut Christina Koch, spoke about the new mission they would both be taking part in, Hague told Cosmic Chicago he “has 100% confidence in strapping back into a Soyuz and launching”.
Hague says he is thankful that a system that had not been exercised for 35 years worked when he and his crewmate needed it.
“I have confidence in it because of the full program, the full system” Hague said, “What was demonstrated on the launch abort, was that on the day things didn’t go perfect, they had a safety net in place to protect the crew.”
Another circumstance of the launch Hague was thankful for, “the point in the trajectory that we had the launch abort” he said. Luckily the escape tower had already separated, otherwise the crew would “have felt ten to twelve g’s” instead of the two to three Hague says he experienced upon separation.
Hague told us that at the point of separation, “it was kinda a violent side to side motion for a couple seconds and then you felt like you were pressed into the seat. I felt a little bit of tumbling which could’ve been perceived due to rapid acceleration and deceleration.”
In the end, Hague credits his experiences as a test pilot in the Air Force and all the systems training he received from Roscosmos engineers, abort training that he last practiced a year ago.
“Focus, work as a crew, help each other out and that’s gonna give us our best chance for success.” began Hague, “The training anchors everything. If you don’t have that strong training then all of a sudden it’s like, what’s going on, and you spend all of your mind energy on trying to make sense of what’s happening to me right now. The training gives you the foundation to take baby steps to get through it.”
That trust in the training, trust in the systems, trust in the teams working on the ground to see them off are what make spaceflight worth a second try for Hague. To him, it’s “not just the phenomenal experiences that are important,” but the anomalies that teach us valuable lessons.
Hague is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on March 14th with Christina Koch and Alexey Ovchinin. They will live and work aboard the station for six months conducting research and tech investigations, and will be on station for the initial commercial crew test flights.
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