Sun Rising on the Final Shuttle Mission

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    NASA image acquired July 19, 2011

    Silhouetted against the Earth, Atlantis flies into the rising Sun in this photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station on July 19, 2011. On July 20, the shuttle undocked from the station for the final time and began preparations to return home. During their 13 days in space, the shuttle astronauts supplied the International Space Station with a new logistics module, tested tools, technologies, and techniques to refuel satellites in space, and collected old equipment from the space station.

    Atlantis is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center at 5:56 a.m. local time on July 21, concluding NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program. In addition to the science the shuttle and earlier programs enabled, human space flight has given us a unique view of planet Earth, which includes the now iconic spectacle of Earth rising over the Moon taken during the first lunar landing on July 20, 1969, and the photographs taken from Atlantis during its last full day in space on July 20, 2011. In fact every flight is a mission to planet Earth, as described in the Earth Observatory’s tribute to the shuttle program.

    Observing Earth from space is one of the NASA’s longest-standing science experiments. Astronauts have used handheld cameras to photograph the Earth since the Mercury missions in the early 1960s, taking more than 800,000 photographs of Earth. Half of that total has come from the 135 flights of the Space Shuttle program.

    “Astronauts are like tourists going to an exotic place, and we know they are going to take photos,” said Kam Lulla. “Early in the space program, NASA decided that if they were going to do this anyway, let’s get some science content out of it.” That was a wise decision.

    Astronauts are still being trained for the view from space. The Space Shuttle program is ending, but the International Space Station offers its own vantage point of the planet—and astronauts will still be heading there for another decade.

    Astronaut photograph ISS028-E-017845 was acquired on July 19, 2011, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 28 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. The animation has been motion-stabilized. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

    Caption by Holli Riebeek.

    Instrument: ISS - Digital Camera

    Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.

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    DvYang, ElDave, AnimatedMartian, and 173 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. Starlite Wonder Imaging 33 months ago | reply

      such awesome stuff - too bad it is the last

    2. Chungking Express 33 months ago | reply

      Safe journey home.

      It's very sad that this is ending.

    3. pauls95blazer 33 months ago | reply

      Incredible photo

    4. vigpbl 33 months ago | reply

      Amzing picture, amazing robotics!

    5. OnceAndFutureLaura 33 months ago | reply

      Full. Of. Awesome.

    6. dodagp 33 months ago | reply

      Out of this world !
      Hope,the sun will rise again for more Shuttle Missions in the near future ...

    7. 'Kie [deleted] 33 months ago | reply

      Wow, awesome picture!

    8. █ fo112 █ 33 months ago | reply

      Nice Shot!! :)

    9. M. Fikret Ercan 33 months ago | reply

      Fantastik. How to beat this shot ? :))))

    10. shutterbroke 33 months ago | reply

      Beautiful. And now it belongs to history.

    11. tinkerbrad 33 months ago | reply

      Its a shame that a replcement program is not ready to fly. That's a serius management error on Washington's part to stop flying our only maned spacecraft without the replacement spooled u an waiting on the launchpad. Now we have to pay a foreign government(former rival) for seats on thier craft.

    12. Diego Gravinese 33 months ago | reply

      You are the benchmark for future generations. You certainly make millions like me feel proud of us as a race.

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