Big Pic: A Flaming Soyuz Spacecraft Carries Three Astronauts Home

After 166 days in space, three astronauts return from the International Space Station.
NASA/Bill Ingalls

Just before 11 p.m. Eastern Time last night, three members of the International Space Station’s Expedition 36 returned to solid ground. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, along with Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin touched down in their Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft in a remote stretch of central Kazakhstan near the town of Zhezkazgan.

Over the course of their 166 days in space, they orbited Earth 2,656 times and traveled more than 70 million miles. And then wafted gently back to the surface with the assistance of this giant hot-air-balloon-looking contraption. And by “gently” I mean “led by a great ball of fire.”*

*_That ball of fire is probably the result of retrorockets, which help with deceleration, not the friction of re-entry, as previously asserted. Thanks to self-professed aviator and Super Genius @HalBryan for pointing out the error._