Spacecraft plummets to Earth with no sensors!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

crashing spacecraft
The Soyuz TMA-08M space capsule used a very large parachute to slow down its speed. Since the sensors stopped working, the spacemen inside didn’t know when they were going to land!

You’re speeding towards the Earth in a spaceship going almost 100 miles per hour. Years of study and training have prepared you for this very moment, yet there is still a sense of exhilaration in the air. You casually glance at a sensor that informs you how high up the capsule is from the ground, when suddenly… it stops working. Now, you’ll never know when to activate the engines to soften the landing! Pretty scary to imagine right?

Well it actually did happen to Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin, along with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy. After they completed a 70.4 million-mile-long mission in 2,656 orbits, the space crew was on their way back to Earth inside the Russian Soyuz TMA-08M, when the height sensor turned off. “There were problems,” said Vinogradov. “For some reason after the undocking, all our parameters disappeared. Essentially, after the undocking, we flew blind.” I can only imagine what they were feeling as it happened! What were their reactions? Panic? Fear?

Actually, according to Vinogradov, “everyone felt normal” during the blind descent towards Earth! A salvage team waiting for them provided the vital information they needed, so the crew knew exactly when to start up the engines and release the parachutes. In fact, Vinogradov was so relaxed that he “managed to count eight seconds” as they “touched down very softly”. Talk about cool, calm, and collected.

After they landed, the spacemen were assist by several medical professionals to ensure they were healthy.

Images courtesy of NASA HQ PHOTO on Flickr.