Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NASA Astronaut Ron Garan's Blog on Descent from ISS in Soyuz Capsule

A NASA Blog by Ron Garan relating a fabulous description of what it's like to descend from the ISS, through the seering heat of Earth's protective atmosphere, in a Soyuz Capsule.

Ron Garan:
About two weeks before my return to Earth, I had a videoconference from the International Space Station with astronaut Scott Kelly who told me about his experience plunging over Niagara Falls in a burning barrel six months before. 
He was actually describing what his own ride home from the ISS on a Soyuz spacecraft was like. Now that I’ve taken the same trip, I can tell you that it was as advertised, and more.

Travel Day
I spent undocking day completing a biological study and stowing it onboard the Soyuz for return to Earth, packing cargo, taking some last minute pictures of our beautiful planet from the space station Cupola, and Tweeting pictures I took on my last full day in space
Following a brief goodbye to Mike Fossum, Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov, who remain onboard the space station, Sasha, Andrey and I hurried into our Soyuz spacecraft, closed the hatch and started preparing for undocking. 
Once the hatch was closed, I put on special garments worn under my spacesuit to help counteract the negative effects of the g-forces we would encounter upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. 
Sasha and Andrey also dressed in their spacesuits, and then we all strapped into the same seats we occupied when we launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 5, 2011. Andrey was on the left, Sasha in the middle, and I sat on the right. 

As the hooks securing our spacecraft released, springs pushed us slowly away from the space station. As we backed away, I took in my last views of the amazing orbital complex that we called home for five and a half months. I strained for a last glimpse of the outboard edge of the space station’s massive solar arrays through the window next to my seat.

We made a lap and a half around the Earth before the spacecraft fishtailed to point backwards, just as the moon was setting west of South America. Then, moments before passing the southern tip of the continent, I watched an orbital sunrise one last time. We then fired the main engines for about four and a half minutes, enough to slow us down for re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. 

The next big event during our return to Earth was the separation of our Soyuz spacecraft into three separate parts: the orbital compartment, the propulsion compartment and the descent capsule, the only part that would survive the transition through the atmosphere. Separation occurred with a small explosion followed by debris flying everywhere out my window!
Read More of this wild ride on Ron Garan's Blog

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