This GIF Shows What Astronauts See As They Re-Enter Earth's Atmosphere

Every time they return from space, astronauts have to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.

And when they hit that atmosphere they’re going fast.

How fast? This fast:

When they detach from the International Space Station they are initially travelling at speeds faster than 17,000 miles per hour — 17,000! — though they begin to slow significantly when they hit Earth’s air, which generates drag from friction.

Within eight minutes of touching the atmosphere they slow to about 500 miles per hour.

The sparks flying by are caused by heat that builds up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Vox, where we first saw a Gizmodo version of the above GIF.

We made our own version from a recently released NASA video that — along with the return — shows space hijinks like looking down at the Earth as astronauts streak past in the sky, and sticking a GoPro camera into a floating bubble of water while in zero gravity:

It’s all pretty fun stuff.

Check out the full video below:

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