Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Atlantis flies loop around space station

After undocking at 4:53 a.m., Atlantis is flying a 360-degree loop around the International Space Station.

Pilot Barry "Butch" Wilmore, a Navy captain making his first spaceflight, is manually steering the shuttle around the outpost from a distance of 400 to 700 feet away.

During the maneuver, astronauts in the shuttle and station will photograph each others' spacecraft to help update flight managers on their condition.

Cameras are providing end-to-end views of the station, including the two large spare parts carriers flown up by Atlantis, and images of the white shuttle against the blackness of space as it flies overhead.

After dropping off more than 14 tons of cargo, the shuttle's payload bay is empty.

By 5:30 a.m., the shuttle was directly over the station and beginning a pass of its Russian segment.

Once the flyaround is over, Atlantis will perform a series of thruster burns to gradually distance itself from the station.

Click here to open a NASA TV video player and watch the shuttle's flyaround in progress.

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