What Is the Soyuz?
The Soyuz (saw-yooz) is a Russian spacecraft. The Soyuz carries people and supplies to and from the space station. The Soyuz can also bring people back to Earth.
Russia is a big country. Russia helps the United States run the International Space Station. Other countries also help with the space station. But only Russian spacecraft carry people to it right now.
What Can the Soyuz Do?
Russian crew members are called cosmonauts. NASA crew members from the United States are called astronauts. Crew members from Europe, Canada and Japan are also called astronauts.
The Soyuz takes cosmonauts and astronauts to and from the space station. A Soyuz has room for three people to ride in it. The spacecraft also brings food and water to the space station.
The Soyuz is like a lifeboat. At least one Soyuz is always attached to the space station. If there were an emergency on the space station, the crew could use the Soyuz to leave the space station and return to Earth.
What Are the Parts of the Soyuz?
The Soyuz has two parts. One part is the Soyuz capsule. The second part is the Soyuz rocket.
The Soyuz capsule sits on top of the Soyuz rocket. The capsule has three parts. The parts are also called modules.
The first part of the capsule is the Orbital Module. The crew members live in the Orbital Module while they are in orbit. This module is about the size of a large van. The Orbital Module can connect to the space station.
The second part of the capsule is the Descent Module. “To descend” means to go down. The crew sits in this part when the Soyuz is launching to the space station. They also use the Descent Module for landing on Earth.
The third module is home to the life support systems. It holds things like batteries, solar panels and steering engines.
The Soyuz capsule launches on top of a Soyuz rocket. A rocket is what launches people and objects into space. After the launch, the capsule and the rocket separate. The rocket part of the Soyuz returns to Earth. The Soyuz capsule keeps going, and takes only nine minutes to reach space!
How Does the Soyuz Launch and Land?
The Soyuz launches from a country named Kazakhstan. It is Russia’s neighbor to the south.
The Soyuz takes just six hours to get to the space station. The crew uses the hatch on the Soyuz to enter and leave the station.
When the crew is ready to come home, they ride in the Soyuz capsule back to Earth. The Soyuz does not land like an airplane because the Soyuz does not have wheels or wings.
To land, the Soyuz drops through Earth's atmosphere. The atmosphere slows the Soyuz. The Soyuz uses parachutes to slow down even more. When the Soyuz gets close to the ground, it fires small rocket engines to slow down more. Even then, the landing is bumpy.
The Soyuz lands in the grassy plains of Kazahkstan. After leaving the space station, the Soyuz takes only 3 1/2 hours to land![image-110]
Words to Know:
atmosphere: the layer of gases surrounding a planet
hatch: an opening or door in a spacecraft
Kazahkstan: a country on Russia’s southern border
life support system: equipment that allows people to live somewhere. It provides oxygen for them to breathe. It controls the temperature and air pressure.
orbit: the path followed by a moon, planet or manmade object as it travels around another body in space
plains: a flat area of land
rocket: a vehicle used to launch people and objects into space
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Mindi Capp/NASA Educational Technology Services
Heather Deiss/NASA Educational Technology Services