Russia's space capsule carrying International Space Station crew landed 420 km ( 260 miles) away from the target site in northern Kazakhstan, but the crew are safe, Mission Control said Saturday. ( RIA Novosti )
The Soyuz-TMA-11 capsule carried U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian flight engineer Yury Malenchenko, and bioengineer Yi So-yeon - the first South Korean that traveled to the ISS. Tests showed their health was satisfactory.
The spacecraft was to have landed to the north of the town of Artalyk, but it landed near the Kazakh-Russian border, southeast of the Russian town of Orsk, because of a "ballistic reentry" scheme.
During a ballistic landing, the capsule follows a much steeper descent trajectory, and gravitational forces the crew experience are way higher.
"The main thing is that the crew are safe and sound. It was a ballistic descent. The specific reasons will be known after the craft is delivered to the Energia rocket and space corporation," Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, said.
Asked by journalists why Mission Control learned about the ballistic descent mode only after the landing was completed, Perminov said: "The crew in the descent capsule did not report during a communication session that they had followed a ballistic trajectory."
The incident will be investigated. In October 2007, a Soyuz capsule carrying Malaysia's first astronaut also followed a steeper trajectory during descent. In 2003, after another descent that went wrong, the crew had to wait for a few hours until rescuers were able to locate them.