“the spacecraft went roll, roll, roll, roll”
Don Pettit was on the Soyuz TMA-1 when a technical malfunction caused a ballistic re-enty
Don Pettit, Kenneth Bowersox and Nikolai Budarin were on board the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft for their journey back to Earth only to suffer about eighttimes the force of gravity during re-entry and a landing some 275 miles short of the planned area.
What mission were they on?
Expedition 6, which had been extended by two months following the Columbia disaster in which the space shuttle broke apart over Texas during its re-entry on 1 February 2003. the space station can be a home away from home, a place where you can be with an outstanding group of talented folks and work on the frontier. Leaving can be hard. from spending six months on board the Iss for Expedition 6 in 2002 and 2003, to being a mission specialist on the sts-126 mission in 2008 and part of the Expedition 30/31 crew in 2011 and 2012, there are great times both personally and for science. Coming back in 2003, however, was particularly tough.
the crew returned on a soyuz spacecraft for a landing on the desert plains of Kazakhstan. unlike the space shuttle, there was precious little room for personal effects on board soyuz, but it allowed three crew members to climb aboard.
the time came five days after the Expedition 7 crew arrived at the station on a tMA-2 spacecraft on 28 April. Having been relieved, the Expedition 6 crew could then use the tMA-1 spacecraft that had flown frank De Winne, sergei Zalyotin and Yury Lonchakov to the station on 1 November the previous year. But this is when things began to get interesting.
the soyuz was a robust vehicle. It had a lot of safety built into its very engineering design and it had the equivalent of two spare tyres.
But it is notorious for rough landings, and that’s independent of whether you do a ballistic entry or not. By ballistic, we're talking of a re-entry in which the capsule behaves like a spherical object. It's a contingency mode that lends greater stability, but it leads to a steeper trajectory, less landing precision and increased gravity loads.
In this case the crew experienced a ballistic entry and used one of the spare tyres coming in. Landing via a parachute, there was always going to be a big thump at the end. But there was sufficient crosswind so that after the big thump, the spacecraft went roll, roll, roll, roll and ended up about a hundred feet from where it landed on its side, causing the equivalent of being strapped in a chair on the ceiling for the crew.
Indeed, tMA-1 ended up touching down about 275 miles off-target and communication was temporarily lost when an antenna was torn away and another pair did not correctly deploy.
A search party of 50 cars and
15 planes searched for the capsule and, luckily, eventually found it with everyone safe and well.
The Soyuz TMA series of spacecraft
used by Russia's space agency