Alexander Gerst
Alexander Gerst: a glutton for punishment.Euronews/YouTube

Not for the faint-hearted, a space traveler's re-entry to earth is crazy, hot and bone-rattling, but also the "best rollercoaster ride of your life," insists European Space Agency astronaut and geophysicist Alexander Gerst.

Gerst recorded his own experience returning to earth in a Soyuz spacecraft with a GoPro camera mounted on his space helmet.

The first crazy thing, explains a smiling Gerst, is that re-entry tears apart your ride.

"In order to get into the atmosphere safely you have to separate your spacecraft in three different parts, because only one of these parts has a landing heat shield. So you have explosive bolts that violently rip your spacecraft apart" and two sections disintegrate into flames, he points out.

"When you start hitting the atmosphere, you actually see the other parts burning up, and not only do you see that, you can see yourself burning up," explained Gerst.

"You see little parts of your own spaceship disintegrating, melting up, and flying and accelerating up into the plasma, glowing red," he adds.

But that doesn't begin to cover what happens to your body. "It's hard to breathe, and your tongue wants to get pushed back in your throat so it's really a tough time," concedes Gerst.

But the thrills don't end there.

Touch down is literally a crash-landing. "When you're under the parachute you have about 10 minutes to prepare for what comes next, and that is the landing, which is pretty rough, it feels like a little car accident," he adds.

"But it really feels like a rollercoaster ride, like the best one of your life if you can imagine that."