Putin bestows award for courage on U.S. astronaut who survived rocket failure


FILE PHOTO: The International Space Station (ISS) crew member Nick Hague of the U.S. gestures after donning space suits shortly before launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday bestowed a prestigious state award for courage on Nick Hague, the U.S. astronaut who survived a botched space launch last year.

A Russian Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station malfunctioned two minutes after liftoff on Oct. 11, 2018, forcing its two-man crew of Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin to make an emergency landing.

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They landed unscathed in the Kazakh steppe after plunging 31 miles (50 km) in a capsule with parachutes slowing their descent.

Almost a year after the accident, Putin awarded Hague the Order of Courage, according to a decree published on a government portal, noting the professionalism he had shown during the rocket failure.

It was not immediately clear whether or when Hague would receive his award at a ceremony.

Russian investigators have said the rocket failure was caused by a sensor that was damaged during assembly at the Soviet-era cosmodrome at Baikonur.

Hague last week returned to Earth having successfully made it to the International Space Station in a repeat launch in March this year.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Gareth Jones

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