Astronauts return safely from space

What on Earth? The Nasa crew returned to a much-changed planet. © NASA

Three astronauts have returned to Earth after more than 200 hundred days living on the International Space Station. Back on board, a brand new crew is settling into life in space.

What’s happening

The striped orange-and-white parachute of the Soyuz landing capsule ballooned behind it, as it floated gently to the ground. The three astronauts inside were returning to Earth exactly 50 years after the Apollo 13 crew splashed down in the Pacific after aborting their Moon-landing mission.

Find out more

After months in zero gravity, the returning crew will need time to acclimatise back to life on Earth. On board, working days start with wake-up music broadcast from mission control. Astronauts perform experiments, send reports back to Earth, and perform routine maintenance checks.

The space station is unlike any other office: zero gravity means laptops, beds and tools are strapped to walls, and crew members eat their meals from pouches. In their free time, they enjoy stunning views of Earth and watch 16 sunrises a day.

But life in space is dangerous. On spacewalks, astronauts risk falling off the space station or being hit by debris. They also have to carry out regular exercises to prevent health problems.

Is living in space worth it?

Some say…

Yes! Since its launch in 1998, the International Space Station has shown us that living in space long-term is possible. Now, companies are planning space tourism, and others are discussing space cities and living on Mars. The work being done on the space station could solve problems of overpopulation, and inform how future generations live.

Others think…

Not really. It may be possible to live in space, but it is also hugely expensive and time-consuming. The dangers of space travel are still very real, making it safe only for experts. Our bodies are designed to work on Earth: muscles, bones, and organs suffer from the effects of zero gravity. Long-term life in space would not work for the masses.

You Decide

  1. Would you like to live on the International Space Station?

Activities

  1. The global lockdown has grounded thousands of planes, meaning it is easier than ever to see the International Space Station. Using the Nasa website, find out when it is next due to fly over your home and try to spot it.

Some People Say...

“I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space.”

Stephen Hawking.

What do you think?

Word Watch

Apollo 13
A mission to the Moon went wrong when an oxygen tank exploded. Luckily, all the crew made it back to Earth safely.
Acclimatise
To adjust; get used to new conditions.
Maintenance checks
Some routine checks are to the outside of the satellite, meaning astronauts have to leave the spacecraft.
Spacewalks
When an astronaut leaves their spacecraft and walks in open space. Special suits are designed for the purpose.
Debris
This can be scattered rocks flying through space.
Health problems
The lack of gravity affects muscle and bone growth, as well as causing kidney problems and blocked noses.
Space cities
Some companies think humans will live on giant satellites – large enough to house thousands of people – orbiting the Earth.

Subjects

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