Soyuz crew set to try again, 5 months after frightening launch abort

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(CBS News) -- Five months after a frightening launch abort, cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and NASA flight engineer Tyler "Nick" Hague, along with first time flier Christina Koch, are set for liftoff Thursday on a six-hour flight to the International Space Station, boosting the lab's crew back to six.

International Space Station / Photo: NASA / (MGN)

With Ovchinin strapped into the command module's center seat, flanked on the left by Hague and on the right by Koch, the Soyuz MS-12/58S spacecraft is scheduled for launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:14 p.m. EDT Thursday (12:14 a.m. Friday local time), kicking off an eight-minute 45-second climb to orbit.

If all goes well, the spacecraft will catch up with the station four orbits later, moving in for an automated docking at the Earth-facing Rassvet module around 9:07 p.m.

Ovchinin and Hague took off aboard the Soyuz MS-10/56S spacecraft on Oct. 11. But two minutes after liftoff, one of the rocket's four strap-on boosters failed to separate cleanly, triggering a catastrophic failure. The Soyuz spacecraft's abort system immediately kicked in, propelling the crew ship to safety for a parachute descent to Earth.

The problem with the normally reliable Soyuz booster was quickly identified and corrected and the station's current crew — Soyuz MS-11/57S commander Oleg Kononenko, Canadian astronaut-physician David Saint-Jacques and NASA flight engineer Anne McClain — enjoyed a problem-free ride to orbit Dec. 3.

Speaking with CBS News by satellite from Moscow last month, Hague said he continued to have full confidence in the safety and reliability of the Soyuz.

"I'm 100 percent confident," he said. "In the aftermath of the launch abort, watching the response from the Russians, the transparency and the way they approach that in terms of sharing their data and resolving the issues, it was impressive. The strength of the international cooperation was tested, and it's as strong as it's ever been."

That doesn't necessarily make it any easier for Hague's wife and two children. All three were on hand at Baikonur for the launch abort.

"It's a rarity that a family has the opportunity to watch a parent or a spouse sit on top of a rocket, launch into space and see a catastrophic launch failure and then have an opportunity to watch that all happen again five months later," he said.

"But I am lucky, I've got an amazing wife, I've got amazing children, and I've been impressed by their resilience. They understand the importance of what we're doing, and why we need to keep the mission going. The space program, we've had failures and successes, and we learn as we go. But the important thing is we continue moving forward."

His wife Catie told CBS News earlier: "I'm nervous. Oh yes. ... Every little piece has to work perfectly, and it's scary to be the spouse and to watch it from the outside, (it's) very scary. But I agree with what Nick said. I mean, this is an important mission. And I go back to that to help calm my nerves."

Even so, she added, "will I be terrified while I'm watching it? Yes, I will be terrified."