The best ride in the galaxy—coming back to Earth in a Soyuz

Enlarge / Would you ride back from space in this? The Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft is seen after it landed on December 11 in Kazakhstan. It was -5 degrees Celsius outside. (credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA)

Just a little more than a week ago astronaut Kjell Lindgren prepared to take the ride of his life. The experience of returning to Earth inside a Soyuz spacecraft—likened to a fireball—may well be the most exciting thrill ride known to humans. Even before he departed for a year-long mission to the International Space Station, Soyuz reentry veteran Scott Kelly explained the ride thusly: "Even If I had hated the last six months, I would have done it all again for that last 20 minutes in the Soyuz.” This was fresh in Lindgren's mind as he strapped into the Soyuz spacecraft early on December 11.

"Scott had talked about that as well, in conversations we had had," Lindgren told Ars in an interview. "That certainly set an expectation in my mind for it being a lot of fun. We sometimes talk about things being fun, or type II fun, where it’s kind of fun in retrospect, but while you’re going through it, it’s maybe a little more arduous. I wasn't sure what this would be."

The ride begins quietly. Boring, even.

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