How does it Feel to Fall Back to Earth from Space?

How does it Feel to Fall Back to Earth from Space?

Astronauts from NASA avoided a major mishap following a failure of the booster of a Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft.

Although manned space missions have become quite frequent nowadays due to the advancement in technology, the risks associated with a spaceflight are still there. Even though all the event pilots prepare for all kinds of scenarios before going on a space mission, none of them wants to face a serious situation on a tour to space. Such an incident took place recently as the launch of Soyuz failed. Nick Hague (an Air Force Colonel) and his commander Alexei Ovchinin merely avoided death in this event.

The 2nd stage booster of the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft system failed minutes after the launch. The jettisoning of side boosters led to this drastic failure and both the astronauts were left with no option but to abort the mission. They were barely halfway to the edge of space when they did that, and the journey back home was not at all comfortable. Hague explained the severity of the situation by saying,

We knew that if we wanted to be successful, we needed to stay calm and we needed to execute the procedures in front of us as smoothly and efficiently as we could. Any time you’re launching yourself into space and your booster has a problem when you’re going 1,800 meters per second, things are pretty dynamic and they happen very fast.

Given the fact that there is no promise of success, it was a tremendous effort from Hague who not only controlled his nerves but also executed all the emergency procedures in a second language. He brought all the experience of his 2-year-training to the party during the half hour descent, which was given the name of a ‘Ballistic Descent Mode’. He himself acknowledged that all his instincts were to speak Russian while they were in the capsule, but he overcame all that to achieve this amazing feat.

The astronauts landed safely on a plain in Kazakhstan and immediately informed the Mission Control about that. Hague tagged it as a ‘wild ride’ but it was quite different from what most of us think about a wild ride. As soon as the alarms started blaring, the capsule was violently thrown away from the booster. A moment of weightlessness replaced the steady acceleration towards space. What followed the weightlessness was an intense force which was about 7 times the gravity of the Earth. Eventually, the parachutes opened and slowed down the descent to avoid a destructive collision with the surface of our planet. Hague described his experience in the following words:

I knew once I saw that light that we had an emergency with the booster, that at that point we weren’t going to make it to orbit that day – so the mission changed to getting back down on the ground as safely as we could.”    

The safety mechanisms of Soyuz have been a part of the system for ages, but it was the first time that they have been used. Hague praised the efforts of the people behind their development and gave them the full credit of saving their lives (his and Alexei). Although the descent was not pleasant, it was efficient, and the survivors were pleased to have that in place. Hague said,

That’s the system that saved our lives, and Alexey and I are standing because of that. It’s on every rocket, and for manned launches on the Soyuz, they haven’t had to use that system for 35 years, but it’s always been there. It’s always been ready, and we proved that last week. That thing is reliable, and I’m just glad that there are so many people that have invested so many years of their life making that system as strong as it is.”  

Listen to what Nick Hague had to say about his experience.

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