ISS Expedition 33 Lands Safely in Kazakhstan

It Came from Space : Soyuz that is
Credit NASA

At 7:56 PM CST, 7:56 AM Local time on Nov 19th,  the Soyuz Capsule containing ISS Expedition Crew members Yuri Malechenko, Sunita Williams and  Akihiko Hoshide returned to Earth 52 miles NE of the town of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan.  The somewhat inelegant, but very typical Soyuz landing saw the capsule come to a rest on its side, in freezing conditions on a steppe covered in 4″ of new fallen snow.   Reportedly, a five second delay in parachute deployment resulted in a landing roughly 20 miles off the intended target in the darkness of a pre-dawn sly.

All things considered, it is easy to see how both NASA as well as future visitors to ISS, given the choice,  might prefer a precision, gliding touchdown aboard the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser in balmy Florida compared to the time proven rough and tumble approach of the Soyuz system.

Taking the long view however, consider the  accompanying image of the landing site, and substitute an even colder, and rock strewn plain on Mars for the snow covered grassland of Central Eurasia.  Without the advantage of 6 search and rescue helicopters depositing  ground recovery teams to pull suddenly gravity stricken space travelers to awaiting couches,  a landing anywhere other than within meters of precisely where it is supposed to occur could be a serious problem.

While the Soyuz is effective, and a return to horizontal landings with a spaceplane would be nice,  if the ultimate goal is a return to the Moon or a transportation system for Mars,  it would not be a bad idea to also begin building the skill and experience base with  precise, vertical propulsive landings on Earth, beginning at the earliest opportunity.

Posted in: NASA, Soyuz

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