Mid-air retrieval is a technique used in atmospheric reentry when the reentering vehicle is incapable of a satisfactory unassisted landing. The vehicle is slowed by means of parachutes, and then a specially-equipped aircraft matches the vehicle's trajectory and catches it in mid-air.
This is a risky technique, and so is only used when other forms of landing are infeasible. Successful mid-air retrieval requires correct operation of the retrieving aircraft, favourable atmospheric conditions, and successful execution of a tricky manoeuvre, in addition to correct operation of the vehicle itself. These risks can be mitigated somewhat: for example, multiple recovery aircraft can be used. The need for human aviators to perform a manoeuvre which would normally be classed as a stunt may in the future be avoided by advances in unmanned aerial vehicles.
Notable uses of the technique:
CORONA re-entry parameters
CORONA recovery sequence
Key Hole film recovery by JC-130
C-119 recovers Discoverer 14