While exciting in some ways — homecoming, yay! — the trip home from the International Space Station is a scary enough journey even when everything goes right. Now imagine doing it with no height sensors to tell you how far from the ground you are and when to brace for impact. That's exactly what happened earlier week.
Two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut faced that scenario on their descent to Earth from the ISS on Wednesday. Apparently things started going wrong as soon as the three-person team undocked from the space station in the Soyuz spacecraft, though they didn't come to light until today. "There were problems," cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov told the press. "For some reason after the undocking all our parameters disappeared. Essentially, after the undocking, we flew blind."
Thankfully, rescue teams contacted the men in the craft as it made its final approach and offered them some idea of their altitude as they fell to Earth. Nobody was hurt during the harrowing fall or the dramatic landing of the Soyuz, although it's unclear if the instrumentation failure had anything to do with the crew's explosive landing. Either way, the next crew that's scheduled to go up to the ISS on September 25 must be a little more nervous than they did last week. [AFP]