Year of 2017

A Soyuz descent module returns to Earth

If only those clouds were as soft as they look. As we arrive at the final day of World Space Week, this image of a Soyuz descent module drifting down through the clouds seems like a nice way to bring us all back to Earth. The reentry was in 2015 and the craft landed near Jezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Inside the landing module were two Russian cosmonauts and one US astronaut, who’d been aboard the International Space Station for nearly six months.

A re-entry capsule is the portion of a spacecraft which returns to Earth following a space flight. The shape is determined partly by aerodynamics; a capsule is aerodynamically stable falling blunt end first, which allows only the blunt end to require a heat shield for atmospheric re-entry. Its shape has also been compared to that of an old-fashioned automobile’s headlight. A manned capsule contains the spacecraft’s instrument panel, limited storage space, and seats for crew members. Because a capsule shape has little aerodynamic lift, the final descent is via parachute, either coming to rest on land, at sea, or by active capture by another aircraft. In contrast, the development of spaceplane re-entry vehicles attempts to provide a more flexible re-entry profile.
Shenzhou 5
Shenzhou 5 reentry capsule