Soyuz Spacecraft Landing: ‘The Ultimate Roller-Coaster Ride Back To Earth’

“It’s only in the moment that you’re in your spacesuit, and that the hatches are closing, that you know that four hours later, you will be back on Earth.”

That’s European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne talking about the emotions an astronaut or cosmonaut feels as they leave the International Space Station in a Soyuz spacecraft. The new ESA video, posted above, shows just how hard the astronauts and ground teams have to work to make sure the spacecraft gets to the right spot.

From training, to calculating orbital trajectories, to making sure the landing site in Kazakhstan is free of debris, it’s easy to see how easily those landing teams get up to dozens and dozens of people.

The undocking itself can be complex; depending on which port the Soyuz is attached to, the International Space Station itself may have to change its position to make sure the spacecraft is in the right orientation to head back to Earth.

After navigating the hazards of space, sometimes the landing site can be treacherous as well. In Kazakhstan, the mounds of snow can build up in the area in the winter time; crews need to be prepared to retrieve the spacefarers in just about any weather condition.

Luckily for the returning Expedition 36/37 crew yesterday, conditions were clear — albeit pretty cold, at 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 degrees Celsius). Check out Universe Today‘s full coverage of the successful crew and Olympic torch landing here.

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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