Friday, April 25, 2008

Astronauts Survive 'Pretty Dramatic' Reentry

Coming back from the international space station, the crew aboard a Soyuz space capsule experienced the reentry ride of their lives. And they're lucky to be alive. Said one Russian official, "the situation was on a razor's edge," reports CNN.

First, the capsule came in too steep, too fast, leading to nearly double the normal G-force. A force of five is the norm, but the needle aboard Soyuz pushed past eight. Also, the capsule was facing the wrong direction (who was driving this thing?), so the hatch instead of the heat shields were facing downward.

Making the situation worse, and perhaps contributing to the whole mess, the descent module failed to separate from the propulsion module as planned,
according to a NY Times report.

As the capsule fell through to earth, it got hot enough the communication antenna burned up and astronauts inside detected smoke.

When the Soyuz capsule finally touched down, it was about 260 miles away from the official landing zone and about 20 minutes late. The astronauts also had trouble reaching mission control since the capsule's communication systems were damaged. To reach the base, astronauts relied on a backup satellite phone.

There to greet the astronauts when they landed were local farmers that happened to be "burning grass" in the area.

So, basically, the astronauts crashed to earth in a fireball where they were rescued by a bunch of farmers before calling for help on a cell phone. It's the future of space travel, ladies and gentlemen! Star Trek it ain't.

As it turns out, this is the second troubled reentry for a Soyuz capsule in a row, and the third in five years.

Of particular concern here is the fact that the Space Shuttle will be retiring in a 2010. Thus, the Soyuz will be the only way home for people visiting the international space station until the United States' Orion spacecraft debuts in 2015 as part of Project Constellation (
that is unless Barak Obama is elected president).

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.