Tim Peake describes how astronauts following a mission on the International Space Station will return back to Earth in the Soyuz rocket capsule. The distance they need to travel from space back to Earth is 400km. The capsule uses its thrusters and the Earth’s gravity to allow it to be pulled back to Earth, through the atmosphere. The re-entry is very dangerous and it needs to be carefully controlled. If the angle is too shallow, the capsule will bounce off the atmosphere back into space, but if the angle is too steep the capsule will burn up. This process of re-entry produces a large amount of heat that needs a heat shield to protect the astronauts inside the capsule. Fran Scott demonstrates how friction can produce heat using a heat sensitive camera. Once the astronaut’s capsule has entered the atmosphere, they deploy large parachutes which also help slow down the craft as it prepares for landing.
Could be used to engage pupils with the current mission to the International Space Station focusing on British astronaut Tim Peake. This can complement a forces and motion topic, explaining a number of different forces.