The Soyuz spacecraft will get you home, but that doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy the ride.
The journey takes over three hours from the time you separate from the International Space Station until the time you thump down in Kazakhstan—and none of it feels like first class travel. First comes the separation from the station and a four-min., 21-sec. engine burn that will steadily lower your altitude and send you slamming into the atmosphere 76 mi. (121 km) above ground.
Then, your spacecraft will be surrounded by a fireball as you plunge toward the ground, a storm that will abate only when you reach heavier, thicker air and your parachutes open, decelerating you suddenly and violently. But there’s no ocean splashdown here. You’ll hit the Kazakh soil hard, and while braking rockets will fire to cushion the impact, you won’t much notice their effect. Station astronaut Scott Kelly compares the experience to “going over Niagara Falls in a barrel—that’s on fire.”
That adventure is what space station crew-members Terry Virts, Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti experienced on June 11. Watch above as the trio’s 199 days in space came to an end with a wild ride home.
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