Astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station witnessed a spectacular light show in space as the Russian Progress ship MS-23 burned up upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. The cargo ship had undocked from the ISS just four hours prior to its fiery descent, as reported by Space.
The dramatic reentry of the MS-23 was a standard procedure for all non-reusable cargo ships leaving the ISS, serving as a fiery farewell rather than a homecoming. Once the cargo ships have completed their deliveries and the docking space is needed for the next shipment, they are dispatched back into the atmosphere to be disposed of in a fiery blaze of glory. Most of the ships’ contents burn up upon descent, with some debris potentially landing in the Pacific Ocean.
The Russian Progress MS-23 cargo spacecraft, which had been carrying discarded equipment and household items from the ISS, departed from the station, leaving the astronauts to liken the ships to “expensive trash bins.” The spacecraft took with it old equipment and household waste, according to Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko.
The International Space Station is routinely resupplied by three types of craft: Russian Progress capsules, American Cygnus vehicles, and the SpaceX Dragon capsule. The SpaceX Dragon is the only one designed to be reusable, while the others are sent on a one-way trip to space, ending in a fiery demise. Astronaut Jasmin Moghbelli shared a dramatic video of the fiery reentry of the MS-23 on Twitter, likening its fiery end to a display of fireworks.
The ISS will soon welcome a new Progress ship set to arrive on December 1, only to meet the same fiery fate after it delivers its cargo. Exciting light shows seem to be a regular occurrence for the astronauts and cosmonauts orbiting the Earth on the ISS.