Sunday, July 10, 2011

Say Goodbye, Part 3

As though happy to be in space one last time, Space Shuttle Atlantis does a back-flip maneuver called the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver before docking with the International Space Station:

Image credit: Composite of screenshots from this NASA video by Cujo359

NASA explains this maneuver:
At 10:05 a.m. EDT, space shuttle Atlantis began the nine-minute Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver, or “backflip.” With Commander Chris Ferguson at the helm, Atlantis is rotating 360 degrees backward to enable space station crew members to take high resolution digital pictures of the shuttle’s heat shield. Three cameras outfitted with 1,000 mm, 800 mm and 400 mm lenses are capturing photos that will provide Mission Control experts with the best possible imagery to validate the integrity of Atlantis’ heat shield.

After the backflip is complete, Ferguson will fly Atlantis through a quarter circle to a position about 310 feet directly in front of the station, allowing the complex to catch up with the shuttle for docking at 11:07 a.m.

NASA STS-135 Status Archive
That link may not be reliable for long.

Atlantis has now docked with the ISS, and the crew have come aboard the station:

Image credit: NASA TV

Click on the images to enlarge. That RPM montage is much bigger and clearer than the thumbnail version embedded in this article.

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