How Do Astronauts Get Back to Earth

astronaut in space
Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

For over fifty years, astronauts have been travelling to space in search of knowledge and exploration. But getting to space is only half the journey – the other half is getting back. So, how exactly do astronauts get back to Earth?

Re-entry into Earth’s Atmosphere

The journey back to Earth begins with the spacecraft re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. This process typically begins at an altitude of around 400 kilometres, when the spacecraft begins to slow down due to air pressure and friction. During this process, the spacecraft will become very hot due to the friction of the air particles and it must be able to withstand these high temperatures in order to make it safely back to Earth.

space capsule landing on parachute
Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

Parachute Descent

Once the spacecraft has slowed down to a safe speed, a parachute will be deployed to slow the spacecraft down even further. This parachute will slow the spacecraft down to around 10-20 metres per second before it reaches the ground.


Once the spacecraft has slowed to a safe speed, it will then be ready to land. Depending on the mission, the spacecraft may land in the ocean, on land or on a specially designed landing strip.

Ocean Landing

If the spacecraft is designed to land in the ocean, it will be equipped with a floatation device that will keep it afloat until it can be recovered. This type of landing is typically used for missions that don’t require a precise landing.

capsule landed on land
Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Land Landing

If the spacecraft is designed to land on land, it will be equipped with landing gear that will allow it to touch down on the ground safely. This type of landing is typically used for missions that require a precise landing.

Spacecraft Recovery

Once the spacecraft has landed, it must then be recovered. Depending on the type of mission, the recovery team may be able to recover the spacecraft and astronauts immediately, or it may take several hours or days.


Getting back to Earth is an important part of any space mission, and there are a variety of ways that astronauts can get back safely. From re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere to a precise landing on land or in the ocean, astronauts have a variety of options to get back to Earth safely.