Time to come home Luca!
8 November 2013
During the night of 10 November, after almost six months in space, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will return home in a Soyuz spacecraft, together with NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and cosmonaut commander Fyodor Yurchikhin.
During his time on the ISS, Luca ran over 30 experiments, helped to dock three spaceships, kept his cool during two spacewalks, and entertained us with his blogs and pictures of Earth from above! But now it’s time for him to come home.
The return trip through our atmosphere will be short but bumpy, ending in Kazakhstan.
After undocking with the Station on Sunday evening, the crew will reduce their cruising speed of 28 800 km/h in orbit to zero over the course of three hours.
Along the way, their Soyuz will separate into three parts, leaving the orbital and propulsion modules to burn up as they fall down to Earth. The descent module with Luca, Karen and Fyodor will encounter temperatures of up to 1600°C! This is because friction from the atmosphere will heat the protective shield as they are coming down.
At 9 km above sea level, a parachute will be deployed automatically, slowing the astronauts down from 864 km/h to 324 km/h. Four motors will fire moments before impact to soften the landing.
Although astronauts have springs in their seats to soften the impact, ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers likened the Soyuz landing to “surviving a small car crash”! The last part of Luca’s journey home will be by helicopter and aircraft to Houston, USA, with Karen.
Follow the undocking and return to Earth on Luca’s blog and via Twitter!