The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft as it lands with Expedition 42 commander Barry Wilmore of NASA, Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Elena Serova of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on March 12, 2015.
Bill Ingalls—NASA
By Jeffrey Kluger
March 12, 2015

Looks peaceful, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled. A descent in a Soyuz spacecraft like the one that just brought astronaut Barry Wilmore and cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova home after nearly six months aboard the International Space Station has been likened by astronaut Scott Kelly to “going over Niagara Falls in a barrel—while you’re on fire.” In this case, the planned thump-down on the plains of Kazakhstan was more harrowing than usual, with heavy fog concealing the reassuring sight of the spacecraft under its parachute until the last minute. But above the clouds, the scene was serene and not long after the picture was taken, the crew was on the ground—rattled but safe.

Write to Jeffrey Kluger at jeffrey.kluger@time.com.

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