A rainy Saturday fun photo puzzle

It is raining here as another winter storm bears down on California, so I thought I’d be lazy. WUWT readers like a puzzle. This is a relatively easy one I think -take your best guess as to what caused the big dust plume, then see the answer and more photos after the break.

Soyuz TMA-18 Descent Module Landing

A comment on Reddit claims the dust below is from retro rockets fired just before landing to soften impact, and not from the impact itself.

The four-quadrant dominant plumes appear to support that claim.

full slide show here

Just think, 20 years ago these would be top secret photos, my how the world has changed.

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69 thoughts on “A rainy Saturday fun photo puzzle

  1. Perhaps more a reflection that the world’s center of gravity has shifted and that the core of the action is no longer the cold war competition with Russia, but rather the ongoing economic crisis in the West together with the rise(return) of Asian economic dominance.
    While the West is preoccupied with fraudulent debates such as the AGW controversy, which in a rational world would at most encourage a spate of nuclear power plant construction, Asia is building both nuclear and fossil fuel plants as fast as possible. Our children will work for their children, because our childrens parents lost sight of truth and of common sense.

  2. My question is……. How did it manage to land almost exactly on the vehicle track running diagonally across the image?

  3. Well, I hope the dust plume wasn’t from impact. The guy getting out would be mush after an impact capable of that much of a plume.

  4. “Well, I hope the dust plume wasn’t from impact.”
    As mentioned, the Soyuz uses braking rockets just before impact; you pretty much have to for any large capsule containing humans because you can’t afford the mass of a large enough parachute to slow it to safe speeds.
    That said, the Apollo capsule was tested for impact on land and the tests showed it was survivable, just not healthy.

  5. Digging back into the ancient depths of what I laughingly call my mind that I have an idea that the term retro rockets is perhaps misleading and what is deployed is much closer to a motor car safety airbag system than an a rocket.
    Kindest Regards

  6. The irony of this is that in the end, the Russians won the space race. They still have manned space flight capability, the USA is retiring the shuttles and no longer can put an astronaut into orbit or service the space station, it has been outsourced to the Russians…

  7. Doug in Seattle says:
    November 20, 2010 at 10:26 am
    Well, I hope the dust plume wasn’t from impact. The guy getting out would be mush after an impact capable of that much of a plume.

    One of the astronauts recently said that landing in that capsule was like being in a car crash.

  8. Definately from retro rockets. But I am surprised there that there doesn’t appear to be any burned dead grass.

  9. If the dust plume is from braking rockets wouldn’t the ground below the capsule be scorched? It doesn’t look scorched in the third photo.

  10. That first picture looks like a hole in a sofa with bits of fluff coming out… I was sure it was an illusion till I saw the other pics… mind blowing stuff.
    P.S. I’m not on drugs 😀

  11. @ Mark S says:
    November 20, 2010 at 11:46 am
    If the dust plume is from braking rockets wouldn’t the ground below the capsule be scorched? It doesn’t look scorched in the third photo.

    A little known secret is that the braking “rockets” are in reality high pressure CO2 canisters that provide the braking thrust. That eliminates the potential fire hazard. 😉

  12. We would prefer a super-conducting, cold fusion, anti-gravity module boosted by a skyhook Erie Canal to a teleportation terminal planted at a Lagrange Point preparatory to slinging bulk cargoes towards miles-wide intrasolar refugia disposed about the plane of Sol’s ecliptic.
    State-sponsored pterodactylic “space programs” have hindered progress long enough. It’s way past time to dump these phony, gender-bending PR exercises, lay on a half-way decent IPO and spread our wings.

  13. Just to be difficult, as an old farmer, that would have to be one of the scraggiest wheat crops/stubbles I have ever seen!

  14. A little known secret is that the braking “rockets” are in reality high pressure CO2 canisters that provide the braking thrust. That eliminates the potential fire hazard. 😉

    I knew CO2 had to be involved somehow.

  15. Curiousgeorge says:
    November 20, 2010 at 12:10 pm
    “A little known secret is that the braking “rockets” are in reality high pressure CO2 canisters that provide the braking thrust. That eliminates the potential fire hazard. ”
    That can’t be – it would lead to water vapor feedback and a deadly heatwave would arise!

  16. Hangtown Bob asks:
    “How did it manage to land almost exactly on the vehicle track running diagonally across the image?”
    Notice that they missed the ‘X’ – it’s on the left of the second (pre-touchdown) shot. 🙂
    Sadly, I believe America lost its will to explore after the Challenger PC bull that wanted to make space flight as safe as driving a car. That won’t happen in this century or the next, as we’re quickly losing the basic knowledge in the workforce, and it will have to be relearned all over again.

  17. Well, there goes the Soyuz soft landing mechanism. We can’t have that pesky CO2 sprayed about so haphazardly anymore

  18. Climate Progress has a problem with commenters who attempt to post refutational information to his silly conclusory pronouncements. I can’t get anything on screen yet.

  19. Hangtown Bob says:
    November 20, 2010 at 10:20 am
    My question is……. How did it manage to land almost exactly on the vehicle track running diagonally across the image?

    (*Paging all conspiracy theorists*)
    Back-lot Hollywood landing; obviously, that was from the vehicle that strung up the cable from which the capsule was hung just before the CO2 retro’s were fired …
    .

  20. PhilM says:
    November 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Sadly, I believe America lost its will to explore after the Challenger PC bull that wanted to make space flight as safe as driving a car. That won’t happen in this century or the next, as we’re quickly losing the basic knowledge in the workforce, and it will have to be relearned all over again.

    I think it happened as the Apollo program wound down to its early termination. A combination of having no plan of what to do after Apollo reached its political goal, and some of the protests from the civil rights movement about funding moon walks but not minority schools, plus Watergate and all that other stuff led to abandoning the team that could put people on the Moon.
    When people gripe “We can put a man on the Moon but we can’t cure the common cold,” I point out:
    1) We can’t put a man on the Moon any longer.
    2) Learning how to cure the common cold is the harder task.
    Skylab was a program to take advantage of leftover Apollo hardware while the Space
    Shuttle was built and intended to be a fast turnaround vehicle.

  21. Olen says:
    November 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm
    Someone mentioned the Russians won the space race. Ain’t it hell when your own leadership quits.

    You mean when your own leadership runs out of money.

  22. Amazing.
    Amazing it managed to land right alongside those lonely truck tire tracks going diagnally across the screen. What a coincidence. If I were a more suspicious person I might suspect the truck is what dropped off the capsule and then got out of the frame while the action shots were taken.

  23. pat says:
    November 20, 2010 at 1:22 pm (Edit)
    Climate Progress has a problem with commenters who attempt to post refutational information to his silly conclusory pronouncements. I can’t get anything on screen yet.

    Keep trying, I’ve managed to sneak a few in under the radar.
    This was the best, in response to a ludicrous ocean heating graphic:
    “I can see you’ve had the crayon box open again Joe, but have you seen the latest OHC data?”

  24. I thought it was the payload from the Trident missile launched off the Southern California coast at dusk instead of after dark because somebody forgot about setting the clocks back. Oops, I mean the airplane.

  25. Dave Springer says: “Amazing it managed to land right alongside those lonely truck tire tracks going diagnally across the screen.”
    I should point out that, from a topological standpoint, there are an infinite number of points that satisfy that condition.

  26. I thought it might have been Stardust’s abortive landing recently when the helicopter missed hooking its drag chute. I was hoping it was a drag chute that deployed too late in a racing vehicle James Cameron was driving for a new movie starring Al Gore who was also in the vehicle.

  27. Aha, so that’s the conclusion to the mysterious missile plumes over Cali earlier.
    And the detonation like plumes upon landing is the from having squeezed three hippies into a too a small tin can trying to flee into orbit who, by the forces of gaia, aptly made it return too sudden too hard whereupon the three fat hippies expunged all their flatulence all at once at the same time in a really cramped and too small a place for all that gas to fit. Therefor the end kaboom-result. One can clearly see the evidence of all this what with the charcoaled scorched sides.
    But question is, where’d they all go?

  28. Being a space junky for life, I knew exactly what this was because I watched the Apollo-Soyuz mission and the landing.
    I do like the idea of alternate captions. How about:
    1) Failed attempt at carbon sequestration.
    2) Janet Napolitano enjoying burritos under a sun shade.
    3) GM futures, illustrated.
    4) Voters testing golden parachutes for former public officials.

  29. “If the dust plume is from braking rockets wouldn’t the ground below the capsule be scorched?”
    Never mind the ground, look at the capsule. Impressive picture, and for the occupants, I’m sure a better than average answer to ‘how was your commute?’ Even if I were to become rich and shameless enough to afford a break to the ISS, I think I’d wait till the ride home was a little more comfortable. Shame we seem to have given up on space exploration in favour of NASA’s navel gazing and rent seeking though.

  30. Cool!…. It would be great to be up there.
    It would be great to go back to the Moon…. To send more probes to Venus, Mars, the outer planents, to do real science, instead of spending money and time on a Climate hoax….
    Perhaps one day… Perhaps soon.

  31. In no particular order, yes, Soyuz has a reserve chute, the retros are solid fuel (probably ammonium perchlorate composite, but I can’t find a reference), the diagonal track is a coincidence (the landing zone is in their equivalent of Kansas, lots of farmland and offroad vehicles), and the ground isn’t scorched because the plume blows the dirt away too fast. To scorch the surface requires something that doesn’t erode fast, like concrete- take a look at Masten or Armadillo’s videos on Youtube.
    Rocket engines do a *great* job of blowing dirt around- when we tested our 5M15 engine at XCOR, just a few minutes’ worth of total run time removed a lot of dirt from the downwind end of the test stand pad, even when firing parallel to the surface.
    An interesting detail about the solids- they are triggered by a gamma ray back scatter sensor, which detects mass, not anything light like grass, wheat, or snow (common ground cover in the area Soyuz usually lands). Clever design.

  32. The round parachute terminating in a cloud of dust reminds me of a prized tee-shirt I had in my college skydiving days about 30 years ago- a very similar image, surrounded by the slogan “Feet, knees, forehead!” Man, was I glad to graduate to a ram-air canopy…

  33. AndrewG says:
    November 21, 2010 at 12:38 am
    “Did they get patted down felt up before they were allowed to fly?”
    Fixed that for ya!

  34. Doug Jones says:
    November 20, 2010 at 8:32 pm (Edit)
    Very long hover! Lots of energy there, good control.

  35. jorgekafkazar says:
    November 20, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Dave Springer says: “Amazing it managed to land right alongside those lonely truck tire tracks going diagnally across the screen.”
    I should point out that, from a topological standpoint, there are an infinite number of points that satisfy that condition.

    An interesting property of infinities is that some infinities can be bigger than other infinities.
    For instance while it’s true there are an infinite number of points alongside the tire tracks it’s also true there is an infinitely larger number of points that are not alongside the tire tracks. So even though we’re dealing with infinities we can still talk about greater or lesser probabilities with confidence.
    The notion another commenter put forward that the capsule was aiming for an X crossing of tire tracks is absurd on the face of it. The capsule lands where it lands due mostly to the accuracy and precision of its vector when it enters the atmosphere and to a lesser extent the winds aloft once the chute deploys. It has no means of course correction after the deorbital burn.

  36. The slide show appears to show all three lucky cosmonauts being carried away from this landing, could not walk away from it, and the lady later in a hospital bed. So the Russians won the space race?

  37. The picture of the capsule on the ground looks very similar to published pictures of the chinese capsule that carried their first manned flight. Do the Chinese use Russian technology (or copy it) for their space program?

  38. Michael Moon says:
    November 21, 2010 at 8:45 am
    The slide show appears to show all three lucky cosmonauts being carried away from this landing, could not walk away from it, and the lady later in a hospital bed. So the Russians won the space race?
    ========================
    It’s amazing what six months in zero gravity can do to your muscles.

  39. I can’t join the laments about the US losing the space race. What can humans do on the moon or Mars except huddle in a tiny capsule so they can breathe? Nobody is going to live there or do anything useful there.
    Anything useful will be done by robots, and all these trips to Mars with the robotic landers crawling around may not find out much about Mars that is worth knowing, but they provide a lot of information about how to get a robot to the planet and keep it running. That is what counts, and eventually, the robots will be smart enough to do something useful.

  40. And here I thought this was going to be about a new GM SUV commercial.
    PS: America isn’t out of the Space Race, I hear the Chinese bought NASA for a song.

  41. Well I wonder if that would work for cars; just have a retro-rocket in the front of the car; and have it fire when the car first contacts a tree; so the rocket slows the car and doesn’t bang up the tree too much.
    Many years ago; when I worked for a much bgger name brand company; in a three storey building; the company sponsored a raw egg drop contest for the engineers; and anyone else who figured they could out design the MEs. The idea was to construct a vehicle into which you inserted a raw chicken egg, and these were all dropped from the roof of the building. Lots of us went up on the roof just for the heck of it; and to see these Rube Goldbergs dropped onto the hard concrete below.
    All manner of contraptions were dropped, and the vast majority of them resulted in a suitably shattered egg.
    One of my ME colleagues took his lunch up there with him; which consisted of one of those paper rolled “tubes” of Saltine crackers. So he was eating crackers; while everybody was dropping parachutes and boxes of packing foam and stuff. The machine was limited to no more than one foot in any dimension. He was down to his last dozen crackers by the time somebody asked him why he wasn’t competing; and he consumed another could while he was filling out the entry form and getting an egg.
    So he dropped the egg down inside the paper tube on top of the last nine saltine cackers; and simply tossed the tube over the side. Well the crackers and egg weight kept the tube bottom downwards, and air drag held the open top of the tube upwards.
    Then we all went down to the ground to examine all the messy broken egg machines, and this guy just handed them back his unbroken egg, and finished his lunch of nine more broken carckers.

  42. So so sad that after the Shuttle is retired next year, the only way for humans to get out into space will be in those 1960-era Soviet spacecraft. Even the Chinese are copying them for their upcoming orbital flights. . . .
    [It makes one wonder who really won the “space race” … The Chinese are infamous for thinking long term – for fighting the entire war, not just the first PR battle until the next news cycle is over. The next election is over. Robt]

  43. Rub Adub says:
    November 22, 2010 at 3:24 am
    I can’t join the laments about the US losing the space race. What can humans do on the moon or Mars except huddle in a tiny capsule so they can breathe? Nobody is going to live there or do anything useful there.
    Anything useful will be done by robots, and all these trips to Mars with the robotic landers crawling around may not find out much about Mars that is worth knowing, but they provide a lot of information about how to get a robot to the planet and keep it running. That is what counts, and eventually, the robots will be smart enough to do something useful.

    When a geologist back on Earth sees something intresting through the rover-camera it will take two weeks to hit the brakes and make a 180 degree turn while a geologist in a spacesuit on the surface of Mars can do that in just under 5 minutes.

  44. Agree with Rub Adub, why send monumentally expensive, manned spaceflights to the moon, which is minimally interesting/useful, when you can send cheap, much less risky robots to asteroids, Mars, the edge of the Solar System, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, or moons of any of them, which are far more interesting than the dead, atmosphereless moon. NASA figured out that the moon was a dead end early on (except perhaps for military purposes), and moved on. The USA is far, far, far ahead of any other country when it comes to space exploration. NASA realized way back that it’s a huge waste of resources attempting manned space exploration vs. robot exploration. Smart people, they.

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