National Geographic News
A sokol suit helmet can be seen against the window of the Soyuz TMA-11M capsule shortly after the spacecraft landed with Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

A space suit helmet peeks from a portal on the Soyuz spacecraft.


Dan Vergano

National Geographic

Published May 16, 2014

Welcome home! On landing in Kazakhstan on May 14, the International Space Station crew enjoyed a look out the window of their Soyuz spacecraft. (Related: "Watch Stunning Live NASA Feed of Earth From Space.")

The six-month mission ended for Koichi Wakata of the Japan Exploration Agency, Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos (the Russian space agency), and Rick Mastracchio of NASA near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

The fiery ride through the atmosphere on its return accounts for the rugged look of the capsule surface.

Bumpy Landing

A photo of a spacecraft.

Oof. So much for the glamor of space travel. The landing is a little bumpy, as seen in this NASA photo from the Soyuz spacecraft's return this week.

While NASA's Apollo and Mercury missions famously landed at sea, Russian spacecraft end their trips on land. NASA plans for its next-generation Orion capsules to land in the Pacific Ocean later in the decade.

Galaxies Gone Bad

A photo of a constellation.

Breaking up is hard to do, especially for galaxies. Consider NGC 4485, seen in cosmic distress in this May 12 close-up from the European Space Agency's Hubble Space Telescope team.

The knotty end of a stellar rendezvous gone awry, clumps of orange and white stars trail away from NGC 4485, torn by another galaxy to its right after a close galactic encounter.

Once configured in a elegant spirals, both galaxies are now irregular in shape—a warped pair known to astronomers as Arp 269, located in the constellation Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs.

Sun's Surface Streams

A coronal hole, almost square in its shape, is one of the most noticeable features on the Sun .

Did someone leave a window open on the sun? Nope. It's merely a curiously square "coronal hole" that opened up on the south side of the solar atmosphere, seen in this May 7 view from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

The SDO view shows how the sun looks in extreme ultraviolet light, revealing bright loops of hot plasma inside the coronal hole. Powerful solar winds stream from the coronal hole. Luckily, they aren't aimed at Earth.

Winds Work Magic on Mars

A photo of yardangs.

Carved by the wind over eons, streamlined hills on Mars merit a close look from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in this recent overhead observation.

Such "yardangs," from a Turkish word meaning "steep bank," are formed when the red planet's dusty wind scrapes bedrock.



Popular Stories

The Future of Food

  • Why Food Matters

    Why Food Matters

    How do we feed nine billion people by 2050, and how do we do so sustainably?

  • Download: Free iPad App

    Download: Free iPad App

    We've made our magazine's best stories about the future of food available in a free iPad app.

See more food news, photos, and videos »