Monday, May 23, 2011

Historic space portrait in progress

A departing Soyuz spacecraft has already provided unprecedented views of shuttle Endeavour docked at the International Space Station, but not the high-quality ones now being shot by Italian crew member Paolo Nespoli.

As the Soyuz backed away to about 600 feet, black-and-white engineering cameras on the spacecraft showed the joined outpost and orbiter through cross hairs against the blackness of space and curve of Earth.

The Soyuz pushed away at an angle set up to provide a good view of the station while making sure pilot Dmitry Kondratyev isn't blinded by sunlight while he keeps the vehicle hovering behind the station.

At 5:51 p.m., Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli climbed from his seat and opened a hatch to a windowed section of the Soyuz, from which he began shooting pictures.

Since no manned vehicle has ever approached or left the station at the same time a shuttle was present, no one has ever seen a full view of the completed station with shuttle, which hauled up most of its components. 

Before 6 p.m., thrusters on cargo vehicles still docked at the station will begin rotating the station 129 degrees to set up a pose presenting a side-on view of Endeavour and three other vehicles.

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