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Unprecedented photo op for shuttle-space stationBy 이우영
Published : May 24, 2011 - 15:36
HOUSTON (AP) _ In an unprecedented cosmic photo shoot Monday, a departing spaceship snapped close-up glamour pictures of the space shuttle Endeavour attached to the International Space Station.
And the combined station-shuttle did what any good fashion model does. It slowly turned and pivoted on its orbital runway. That maneuver was so that departing Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, clicking away inside a Russian Soyuz capsule, could good digital photos and video.
The Soyuz hovered in space while the shuttle-station rotated 129 degrees.
Minutes earlier, the Russian capsule had backed away from the space station, carrying Nespoli and two other station residents back to Earth after a five-month stay. They landed safely about five hours later in Kazakhstan.
A Soyuz has never headed for home while a shuttle was attached to the space station. Endeavour is making the next-to-last space shuttle flight, so it won't happen again.
``It's unprecedented and we worked hard to get here,'' space station flight director Derek Hassmann said earlier Monday.
Nespoli took the pictures from about 600 feet (200 meters) _ about two football fields away. But in this era of instant gratification, NASA engineers, who said this was more for engineering than beauty purposes, are going to have to wait until Tuesday to pour over the photos.
The Soyuz did not have the ability to send the high quality pictures back to Earth live. When the Soyuz lands in Kazakhstan later Monday evening, the photos will then be shipped to NASA.
Soyuz commander Dmitry Kondratyev asked Nespoli, who had the best view in the Soyuz upper portion: ``Is it beautiful?''
``It's nice, very, very nice,'' Nespoli responded.
Nespoli, as planned, left the cameras in part of the Soyuz that burns up in space, but he made sure the digital photo cards returned to Earth with him. And if he didn't do it himself, mission controllers reminded him a couple times.
This was such a one-of-a-kind event that even though Endeavour's crew was supposed to be asleep, they were allowed to wake a couple hours earlier if they wanted to watch the orbital ballet.
After the picture taking, the Soyuz _ carrying Nespoli, American astronaut Catherine Coleman and Kondratyev _ was headed back to Earth. The three space station crew members had been in orbit for 159 days.
Their departure leaves three space station residents, as well as Endeavour's six-man crew.
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