Saturday, September 14, 2013

Touchdown!  The photo at right shows the recent landing of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with three astronauts on board, on the plains of Kazakhstan.  To cushion the landing, small retro-rockets fire very briefly when the craft is one meter (3 feet) off the ground.  U.S. capsules always splashed down in the ocean, whose soft embrace eliminated the need for the retro-rockets.  When Soyuz was developed, the Soviets were afraid of landing anywhere other than their own territory – enough so that the cost and trouble of developing the retro-rocket system seemed worth it.  I wonder how the Russians would make that decision today?

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