According to initial findings, one of the rocket’s first stage boosters failed to separate properly and impacted the second stage, forcing the two men to go for what NASA described as being a “ballistic descent.”
As soon as the command was given to separate the capsule from the booster, both men were rocked in their seats by the violent moves of the capsule, just as seen for a split second in a video released shortly after the incident.
Hague said in various interviews that calm was of the essence in properly executing the required procedures to bring them back to Earth safely. That, and training.
"I've spent the better part of the last two years in Star City, Russia, inside a descent module where they have thrown every failure imaginable at us," Hague said according to Space.com.
"We had actually run some scenarios where we had a booster failure and our response to that."
The two men allegedly had to perform their procedures while supporting loads of about 6.7 g. While both were speaking in Russian, Hague was in charge of maintaining the vehicle’s orientation and coordinating with the rescue teams.
"Any time you're launching yourself into space and your booster has a problem when you're going 1,800 meters per second, things are pretty dynamic, and they happen very fast," Hague said as per Associated Press.
The two men landed after a 30 minutes descent somewhere in the Kazakh steppe, both unharmed, and were retrieved by rescue teams.
"We're kind of hanging upside-down from our straps. He holds out a hand. I shake his hand. And then we start cracking a few jokes between us about how short our flight was," the American added describing the first few minutes after touchdown.
The more experienced Aleksey Ovchinin said of rookie Hague in an interview for Russian agency TASS he “acted as a true expert and was completely coolheaded."
This is the shimmy that the crew experienced during booster separation - broadcast by NASA, and looped here. So happy they are safe!!— Steve Spaleta (@stevespaleta) 11 octombrie 2018
More about the launch failure: https://t.co/Ws3Qu97BWK pic.twitter.com/JH2N3ROMqA