A Soyuz Capsule Returns to Earth—With a Flash

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Yesterday, the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft brought three astronauts safely back to Earth. This image captures the capsule as it lands, but don’t worry: the flames are helping soften the landing and not a sign of bad news.

The parachute used to slow the Soyuz capsules as they return to Earth manage to reduce the speed of the craft to 24 feet per second. That’s still too fast for a comfortable landing, so there are six small engines on the bottom which are fired one second before touchdown to soften the landing. This image captures that exact moment.

The engines provided Expedition 43 commander Terry Virts of NASA, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency, and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from European Space Agency a (relatively) comfortable landing near the town of Zhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. [NASA]