Coming home: incredible Soyuz landing photo

12 Mar


On the evening of March 11 (Eastern Time; it was the morning of March 12 in Kazakhstan) three astronauts returned home from the International Space Station in their Russian-built Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft.

The astronauts were Elena Serova (RUS), Alexander Samokutyaev (RUS), and Barry “Butch” Wilmore (NASA). The landing went smoothly (as smoothly as a Soyuz landing can go, at least). They touched down vertically, and on schedule, on a cold and foggy morning in Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. It was about 30 minutes after sunrise.

And in the process of all that, NASA photographer Bill Ingalls took one of the most amazing Soyuz landing photos I’ve seen.

The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 42 commander Barry Wilmore of NASA, Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Elena Serova of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, March 12, 2015 (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 42 commander Barry Wilmore of NASA, Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Elena Serova of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, March 12, 2015 (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

…and “amazing” doesn’t really do this photo justice. It’s majestic. It’s almost surreal (I actually looked twice when I first saw it to make sure it was indeed a real photograph, and not CGI).

The photo was taken from an aircraft just before the Soyuz disappeared into a layer of cloud on its journey to terra firma.

The astronauts had spent about six months on board the ISS as a part of the Expedition 41 and 42 crews.

To see some more photos from the landing (and download hi-res versions), check out this NASA Photoset on Flickr.

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