I am watching loads of ISS related videos and there is one detail I recently noticed;

At the time, when Space Shuttles were still in operation and visiting ISS, when astronauts returned home, they were able to walk off the orbiter as it landed to a full stop on the runway. See related video (it will lead you to correct time) of Space Shuttle Atlantis:

If I compare it with returning home via Soyuz, the astronauts and cosmonauts have to be taken off by the rescue team and then carried on chairs where they would gradually adjust to Earth's gravity. Related video (again, at time of egress):

I immediately assumed that it must be the design difference between Space Shuttles (USA made) and Soyuz craft (Russian). Am I assuming correctly? Or did I miss something?

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    $\begingroup$ I'd say this strongly correlates with the individual mission length, not with design differences... $\endgroup$
    – SAnderka
    Apr 28, 2015 at 9:47

2 Answers 2


Look at the STS-122 video. How many astronauts do you see? I see six. Seven astronauts landed with STS-122. The six you see were the crew of STS-122 who spent twelve days in space. They could walk because twelve days in zero g isn't enough time to take a significant toll on musculature, bones, and blood.

The seventh returning astronaut, Daniel Tani, who you don't see in the video, spent three months in space. That is more than enough time to take a toll on musculature, even with a regular exercise regime on the Space Station.

The Expedition 34/35 crew with Chris Hadfield, Thomas Marshburn and Roman Romanenko that you see landed on second video were on a long-duration mission that launched aboard Soyuz TMA-07M on 19 December 2012 and landed on 13 May 2013, for total duration in microgravity of 145 days and 14 hours. Spending almost five months in zero g takes a significant toll on the body.

  • $\begingroup$ This is possibly the thing I omitted. Length of flight $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2015 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ Probably also worth pointing out that Soyuz is extremely cramped and difficult to negotiate in 1g, even for a very able-bodied person. $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Apr 28, 2015 at 15:43

The shuttle post landing activities took a while to complete, and this would include the flight surgeon boarding to check the crew over before leaving. This would enable the crew to stretch their legs and recover a bit.

For interest, the Crew Operations Manual has a list of post landing activities the crew go through (Section 5.5 - no timeline but this would have taken a while to get through).

It's very rare for astronauts to admit to weaknesses of any sort, but Gordon Fullerton had some interesting comments (p. 36) on walking into door jambs and so on, for a day after shuttle landings.

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    $\begingroup$ Re your last point, there's also that Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper incident from 2006 where they took astronauts too soon to the welcome-home ceremony and she fainted / collapsed two times on stage. There's some videos of the incident on YouTube but all that I found come with ludicrous tinfoilhattery titles making more of it that there really is, so I won't link to any specific one. $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Apr 28, 2015 at 10:20

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