Is/was there anything (device, animal, plant, etc.) on the International Space Station that will be destroyed/dead if that object returns to Earth? (Assume that thing/animal is brought in, for example, the Soyuz with the astronauts in a soft re-entry)

It could be either fabricated/manufactured/born there or traveled from the Earth and changed with the time.

For example, if you bring an Anglerfish to the surface of the ocean, it will die because of the pressure difference.

Note: I am NOT saying what part of the ISS is going to be destroyed (or not) when the ISS reenters.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you want to include things that have been on the ISS previously or only those things that are currently on the ISS? $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Sep 25, 2019 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage Any of them are fine. Thanks $\endgroup$
    – JuanCa
    Sep 25, 2019 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ I mean, this entirely depends on what exactly you mean by "destroyed". Almost everything that's on the ISS is there because it only "works" or is observable in space; otherwise we'd just do all those experiments and R&D down here on the planet's surface (where it doesn't cost multiple $USDm per person per day). $\endgroup$
    – iono
    Sep 26, 2019 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ @iono: Destroyed could also mean "dead". I change the question to add it $\endgroup$
    – JuanCa
    Sep 26, 2019 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ Some related: space.stackexchange.com/questions/3262/…? $\endgroup$
    – JuanCa
    Sep 26, 2019 at 15:03

3 Answers 3


Floating water (or other fluid) droplets cannot be returned to Earth without losing their form.

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Photo credit NASA

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Unless they're frozen :). $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2019 at 22:17

The ISS’s solar panels, radiator panels, robotic arms, and possibly the truss itself would collapse under their own weight if brought into earth gravity. These devices were assembled or deployed in microgravity. In the interest of minimizing mass, structural strength was designed to be sufficient only for the small forces and accelerations of space operation. For mock-up tests on Earth, these devices required additional supports or full redesigns to withstand Earth gravity.


Following Organic Marble's spirit, I guess the thermal shields on the capsules will be destroyed when they are returned to earth. 100% sure there are a few of those up there right now.

  • $\begingroup$ The heat shields are ablated in order to protect the capsules. They will loose thickness but hopefully they are never destroyed completely, only the topmost layers. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Sep 26, 2019 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ I could be way off but are there ablated heat shields on the capsules? I would have assumed they were intended to be destroyed, not recovered. $\endgroup$
    – Marie
    Sep 26, 2019 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Marie It is generally accepted that crew capsules must land in one piece $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2019 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ @DiegoSánchez: Aren't the heatshields generally jettisoned at the time of parachute deployment, in the interest of lightening the capsule and softening the eventual touchdown? $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Aug 16, 2020 at 19:50

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