NASA released image of peak re-entry of Soyuz from above

NASA has released a photo taken from the International Space Station looking down as a three person crew change Russian Soyuz capsule re-enters the atmosphere at more than 27,358 kmh (or 7600 metres per second) over Kazakhstan.

The ISS would have been at around 300 kilometres altitude above central Asia and the Soyuz at about 140 kilometres altitude and thus around 160 kilometres below the start of its violent and fiery fall from space on Sunday,  as the returning crew’s ride, based on a cold war design more than 50 years old, builds up to maximum braking and heat generation and traces a column of incandescent ionised gases behind it.

It would have been something of a high G whammy for the space travellers on board, who had been in the micro G free fall of almost total weightlessness in near earth orbit for 127 days.

For the faint hearted flyer, this might have been a sight to encourage delaying the return for as long as possible.  However there is no place in space for the nervous flyer, and the image below, taken from a recovery helicopter, shows the Soyuz on the snow covered steppes of central Asia in the pre dawn darkness, with the bright object in the middle  a light stand, with the capsule just to its right at the two o’clock position.

Overhead the pre dawn landing site: NASA image
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