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Family, world watches as rocket carrying Kansas astronaut fails

Matt Riedl, The Wichita Eagle on

Published in News & Features

PEABODY, Kan. -- In a bar in the small town of Peabody, Kan., in the middle of the night, astronaut Nick Hague's family huddled around television screens.

Family members breathlessly awaited the result of the rocket launch, the culmination of a childhood dream for Hague, a 43-year-old Hoxie native and U.S. Air Force colonel.

Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin are safe after an emergency landing early Thursday morning, following the failure of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station.

It was to be Hague's first flight to the station, launching at 3:40 a.m. Thursday from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, coordinated the launch, which had been planned for multiple years.

NASA coordinated a private event at Peabody's Coneburg Inn exclusively for Hague's extended family, sending astronaut Victor Glover to be a personal envoy to the family there. The Eagle was invited to the event.

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Before launch, Glover made a presentation about the mission, boasting about the reliability of the Russian-made Soyuz rocket the two were to launch in.

"The most important person in NASA right now is Nick Hague," he told the family.

The atmosphere in the bar was jovial -- essentially a reunion for the family, who had driven and flown in from across the country to watch their relative launch into space.

Family members wore custom-made "Nick Hague Crew" jackets, with patches sewn on representing NASA, the International Space Station, and the official mission that took place Thursday.

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