On Friday, the Space Shuttle Atlantis flew into space for the last time. After a dramatic countdown — there was a hold at 31 seconds before launch while a glitch was run down — it leapt into the sky, and into orbit.
It takes a while to catch up with the space station and match orbits, and even when it does there are some chores to perform. After the loss of Columbia in 2003, the Orbiters need to be checked to make sure the heat-retaining tiles are intact; it was damage to the wing that let super-heated plasma into Columbia when it was returning to Earth.
The Orbiters do a slow 360° flip, pitching all the way around, so cameras and astronauts on the station can take a looksee. NASA just released video of Atlantis’s last pirouette yesterday, July 10. I took the video and sped it up by a factor of four so you can see it clearly:
Pretty cool, huh? [Make sure to set the resolution to 720 or 1080p to get the full effect!] You can see the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, named Raffaello, in the payload bay; it’s filled with supplies and spare parts for the station.
You can watch the original version of the video on NASA’s site.