Russia's space station module in flames as it hurtles back to Earth like 'shooting star'

Russia’s Pirs module burns in space after being discarded

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The station module was retired on July 26 after 20 years of service on the segment of the International Space Station (ISS). Pirs (DC1) was undocked from the Russian Zvezda module and was pulled away by a Progress cargo ship towards a certain doom in the Earth’s atmosphere. French astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) has now shared a thrilling timelapse of the module’s fiery descent towards Earth.

Mr Pesquet, who has been in space for 100 days, tweeted the video from aboard the space station 250 miles above Earth.

The 24-second clip shows a bright streak of light passing over a dense blanket of clouds.

As the video progresses, the slowly disintegrating ISS module gets brighter and a stream of flames extends far behind.

Then, about 13 seconds in, Pirs appears to completely fall apart as the flames are quickly extinguished – or disappear into the clouds.

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Russia's Pirs module burning up in the atmosphere

Russia’s Pirs module undocked from the ISS and disintegrated in the atmosphere (Image: ESA/THOMAS PESQUET)

Russia's Pirs module falling towards Earth

Thomas Pesquet likened the burning module to a spacecraft (Image: ESA)

Mr Pesquet also wrote in a brief Facebook post in French and English: “Here’s a timelapse of DC1’s re-entry last week, together with its tow truck, Progress 77P, seen from above.

“Atmospheric reentry without a heat shield results in a nice fireball.

“You can clearly see pieces of molten metal floating away and adding fireworks.”

Although the video only lasts about 24 seconds, the fireball was seen hurtling towards the ground for about six minutes.

Mr Pesquet added: “Next time you see a shooting star, it might be our ISS trash getting burnt up.

Stunning NASA timelapse shows Aurora Borealis from space

“Not sure it will be granted in that case, but you never know, I’d still advise to go ahead and make a wish.”

When on the space station, the only way to dispose of waste is to load it up onto one of the cargo resupply ships and let it crash into the atmosphere.

The spacecraft, like Russia’s expendable Progress, burn up long before they reach the ground.

According to ESA, Pirs burnt up safely somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.


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International Space Station fact sheet

International Space Station fact sheet: Incredible facts about the ISS (Image: EXPRESS)

Russia's Pirs module falling to the Earth

The Pirs module was tugged by a Russian Progress cargo ship (Image: TOMAS PESQUET)

The Pirs module was decommissioned last month in advance of the Nauka science module being launched to the ISS.

Nauka was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Proton-M rocket on July 21.

The module then reached and docked to the ISS on July 29 on what was supposed to be a routine operation – but proved to be a tense moment for .

About three hours after the module docked to the space station’s Zvezda module, .

According to NASA flight controller Zebulon Scoville, the ISS revolved one-and-a-half times before coming to a halt.

The space station then had to be returned to its original position by flipping it forward by 180 degrees.

Although NASA has assured none of the seven astronauts on board were in any danger, a “spacecraft emergency” had been briefly declared.

Shortly after the incident, Joel Montalbano, ISS programme manager, said at a press conference: “There was no immediate danger at any time to the crew… obviously when you have a loss of attitude control, that’s something you want to address right away.

“But the crew was never in any immediate emergency or anything like that.”

Roy Walsh

Roy Walsh

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