ISS Astronauts Saw ‘Fireworks’ in Space As Russian Cargo Ship Burned Up in the Atmosphere

ISS Astronauts Saw ‘Fireworks’ in Space As Russian Cargo Ship Burned Up in the Atmosphere

The astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station were treated to a light show in space on Wednesday after the Russian Progress ship MS-23 burned away upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. The cargo ship had undocked from the ISS just four hours prior to its return trip, as Space reports.

That return trip was less of a homecoming and more of a fiery farewell, which is standard procedure for all non-reusable cargo ships after leaving the ISS. Once these ships have delivered their payload and docking space is needed for the next delivery, the ships are dispatched back into the atmosphere where they are disposed of by reentry.

The astronauts use the ships kind of like expensive trash bins to be loaded with things they no longer need. Most of it will burn up as it descends, though some of it may end up landing in the Pacific Ocean. Per Space:

On Wednesday (Nov. 29), the Russian Progress MS-23 cargo spacecraft departed from the International Space Station (ISS) with a load of refuse no longer needed on the orbital outpost. Specifically, the spacecraft was carrying “old equipment and household waste, or everything the experts have decided to toss from the station,” Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko told Russian media outlet TASS.

Three types of craft are currently used for ISS freight deliveries, which routinely carry a few tons of cargo, including food, fuel and other supplies. The craft used are Russian Progress capsules, American Cygnus vehicles (made by Northrop Grumman) and the SpaceX Dragon capsule. The latter is the only one that’s not disposed of in the atmosphere as it’s designed to be reusable, landing safely back to Earth after supply runs.

The other ships have a one-way ticket to space, their journey culminating in a fiery blaze of glory, which NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbelli caught on camera and posted to Twitter (also known as X):

Moghbelli compared the two to three-minute immolation of the MS-23 to “fireworks,” adding that the comparison applied especially when the cargo ship dismantled, leaving behind streaks of burning debris. And the astronauts will likely get another light show soon, since a Progress ship is set to arrive on Friday, December 1. Once it delivers the goods onboard, it will burn up and wave goodbye to the ISS.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.