Thursday, June 9, 2011

Possibly last photos of Space Shuttle in space

NASA has released photos of Space Shuttle Endeavour docked at the International Space Station (ISS). These are are the first ever images taken of a space shuttle while still attached to the orbiting lab complex from the perspective of a crewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Click on the picture for a bigger and better view :)

The breathtaking digital images were captured by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli on May 23 through a window inside the Soyuz TMA-20 vehicle as he and two crewmates were departing the ISS for their return trip to Earth.

The ISS / Shuttle stack and Soyuz were flying at an altitude of 220 miles as the Soyuz undocked with Nespoli, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman. After they were about 600 feet away, Mission Control Moscow commanded the ISS to rotate 130 degrees to give a full view of the entire complex from the side.

Nespoli then had about 30 minutes to capture high resolution digital photos and videos of Space Shuttle Endeavour docked to the orbiting lab for the very last time in the midst of her 16 day long final mission; STS-134.

The Soyuz trio landed safely in Kazakhstan later that day.

The imagery was to have been made public a day or two after the landing. But Nespoli accidentally left the SD data cards behind in the Soyuz vehicle, causing them to processed more slowly as part of routine post flight analysis.

First-ever image of a space shuttle docked to the International Space Station

Before there was the International Space Station, the reigning orbiting spaceport was Russia's Mir. Pictured below: In 1995, the United States Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with the segmented Mir. During shuttle mission STS-71, astronauts answered questions from school students over amateur radio and performed science experiments aboard Spacelab. The Spacelab experiments helped to increase understanding of the effects of long-duration space flights on the human body.

Related post: The End of an Era - Space Shuttle to be retired from service in 2011

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