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So we all know that the Apollo missions used a water landing, as will Orion, while the Soyuz lands on land but can land on water if needed. What would have happened if an Apollo crew began reentry in at the wrong place due to a navigational error, and the capsule was heading for land? What about Orion, under the same circumstances?

Landing on water greatly reduces the impact force, so the Soyuz has retrorockets that fire a quick burst just before landing to soften the blow. Would an Apollo or Orion crew be doomed if they missed their ocean landing site, or would he impact be survivable?

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    $\begingroup$ The decent rate was 32 feet per second when all 3 parachutes deployed on the command module. Bearing in mind the Soyuz slows to 24 feet per second before the retro rockets fire, it sounds like they would have a very very hard landing indeed, possibly fatal. $\endgroup$ – Dean Feb 27 '16 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ Water is relatively unforgiving at that speed and comes with its own complications; Apollo 12 hit a rising wave on its splashdown, yielding a momentary 15g jolt. A camera broke off its mounting and hit Al Bean in the head, stunning him briefly. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_12#Splashdown $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Feb 27 '16 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ too bad this is paywalled: arc.aiaa.org/doi/abs/10.2514/3.30348 $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Feb 20 at 23:30
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A descent rate of 10 m/s into the ground equals a collision into a solid wall at 36 kilometers per hour / 20 miles per hour. Add to that the reclining, form-fitted (molded even?) seats and it should preset no significant hazard. It would be uncomfortable and decidedly unpleasant, but definitely survivable, even without any major injury unless something pierces the cabin.

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    $\begingroup$ Possibly with some minor injury. In the history of aviation and space travel there were quite a few emergency procedures that would allow the crew to survive, but definitely not unscathed. $\endgroup$ – SF. Feb 28 '16 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ Unless they tip over I guess they would escape bruised and with a concussion at most. A 40 kph collision in those kinds of seats is not likely to cause more than that. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Feb 28 '16 at 22:14
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    $\begingroup$ yes, a mild concussion is a likely outcome. Far better than ejection seats used in many MiGs for a long time, that would pretty much invariably break the pilot's legs upon activation... $\endgroup$ – SF. Feb 28 '16 at 22:18

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