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Korean astronaut recounts 'ballistic' Soyuz re-entry

'At first I was scared', admits Yi So-Yeon

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Korean astronaut Yi So-Yeon has recounted the "ballistic" re-entry of the ISS Mission 16 Soyuz capsule on Saturday which, due to a technical hitch, "exposed the crew to twice the usual gravitational forces", put on a nice display of external flames for the understandably nervous 29-year-old biotechnology engineer, and eventually carried her and her fellow passengers to a touch-down in the steppes of Kazakhstan some distance from the intended landing site.

Yi told a press conference in Russia's Star City today: "During the descent there was some kind of fire outside the Soyuz capsule because we were going through the atmosphere. At first I was scared, but the two other guys looked okay, so I tried to look okay, too."

According to Reuters, Yi's 11-day jaunt ended with a much steeper, more direct trajectory towards Earth than normal. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko made up the returning trio, told reporters that the ballistic landing was "irregular, but not an emergency".

She said: "The Soyuz has been through its history very reliable, there has obviously been some issue in the last couple of descents* which went ballistic, but I'm sure the engineers will determine what the problems are and get them fixed."

Whitson, 48, now holds the title for the most time spent in space by any US astronaut - 377 days on two missions. At the press conference, she apparently appeared "frail" following the successful conclusion of her second extended off-planet trip. ®

Bootnote

*Reuters elaborates: "In October, a Soyuz capsule carrying Malaysia's first space tourist touched down about 200km (125 miles) off course in a similar ballistic landing caused by a technical glitch."

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