Three men’s journey aboard the International Space Station is coming to an end. At 8:02 pm ET, the Soyuz spacecraft carrying Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov will undock from the ISS. Three minutes later and the Soyuz will conduct a manual separation burn.
A little more than two hours later and the Soyuz spacecraft will initiate a de-orbit burn at 10:32 pm ET. This burn lasts 4 minutes, 49 seconds and slows the spacecraft and angles it toward Earth’s atmosphere at just the right angle.
15 minutes before landing, parachutes will open to slow the Soyuz’s screaming descent through the Earth’s atmosphere. Seconds before impact, two sets of three small engines will fire slowing the spacecraft even more. The three crewmembers will feel a nice little shake at landing.
If you want to know what Kelly’s evening is going to be like, check out the fantastic ESA video explaining undocking, reentry and landing below.
At 11:25 pm ET, Scott Kelly and company should be sitting comfortably just southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. And they will be sitting. One of the downsides to long duration low-gravity is muscle and bone loss. To fight against this, ISS crewmembers exercise every day. During his stint aboard the ISS, Kelly exercised for about 700 hours according to NASA.
Another issue for returning crew members is vision. Because fluids float towards the head in zero-gravity, more pressure is placed on the optic nerve. Any vision issues usually go away, but it’s an area NASA wants to understand much better before sending men and women into deep space.
Kelly and Kornienko’s year in space is just the start of the science focused on the effects long-duration space travel have on the human body. How their bodies respond once returning to Earth is just as important as the experiments they did aboard the ISS.