Bad Astronomy

Expedition 36 Returns Safely To Earth in a Cushion of Fire

Expedition 36
Expedition 36 lands safely on Earth under a parachute and above a cushion of flame.

Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls

On Sep. 10, 2013, at 14:58 UTC, three astronauts landed safely on Earth after six months on board the International Space Station.

The picture above shows the moment of touchdown. The Russian Soyuz capsule has retrorockets that fire briefly to soften the landing, which was in a field in Kazakhstan.

The three astronauts in the capsule—American Chris Cassidy, and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin—were part of Expedition 36, joining the ISS on March 28, 2013. Three astronauts are still onboard ISS, and they are officially now starting Expedition 37. On Sep. 25, three more astronauts will be launched onto space on a Soyuz spacecraft to join them.

When astronauts return to Earth, I have a tendency to say they are “coming home”. But in a sense that’s not really true, is it? After all, astronauts belong in space; that’s what makes them astronauts. I guess home is where you hang your helmet.

You can see more photos of the landing on NASA’s Expedition 36 Flickr page.