Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Endeavour Flips For Station; Docking Coming Up

Endeavour's astronauts are making their final approach to the International Space Station after putting their spaceship through a graceful, nose-over-tail backflip that's now a standard safety operation before final approach to the outpost.

With the shuttle about 600 feet below the station. Endeavour commander George Zamka executed a command that send the shuttle on a nose-over-tail backflip, a move that will enabled camera-wielding station crewmates to image the underside of the orbiter.

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams used an 800 mm lens and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov used a 400 mm lenses as the two shot photos of the shuttle from windows in the Russian Zvezda Service Module.

Images taken during the eight-minute maneuver are being downlinked to Mission Control in Houston so engineers can determine whether fragile heat-shield tiles on the belly of the spaceship sustained damage during launch early Monday from Kennedy Space Center.

Coming up next: Docking just after midnight. The shuttle is due at the station at 12:06 a.m. Wednesday.

You can watch live here in The Flame Trench. Click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer and round-the-clock coverage of Endeavour mission to the station. Be sure to refresh this page, too, for periodic updates.

Endeavour and its crew are hauling up the U.S. Tranquility module, the last large American segment for the station, as well as an Italian-built observation deck with seven windows. The Cupola will allow a 360-degree view around the station and hemispheric view of the planet Earth.

Click read more to see seven additional NASA TV screen grabs captured during the Rotational Pitch Maneuver:

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