September 5, 2011 - Belly of the Beast
Belly of the Beast Known as the “rendezvous pitch maneuver” or more simply the “backflip,” the graceful 360° turn executed by the space shuttle prior to docking with the International Space Station is a safety precaution born of the 2003 Columbia disaster. The backflip allows the ISS crew to inspect the shuttle’s delicate heat shield for any damage that may have happened during launch. In addition, it affords a unique perspective on the shuttle. Seen here during the STS-115 mission, which was launched five years ago this week, the nose of the space shuttle Atlantis tips up to reveal some of the more than 20,000 reusable black insulating tiles that protect the orbiter’s belly from reentry temperatures approaching 2,000° F. Newer tiles, which have flown fewer times, appear darker than older ones.
Image credit: NASA
September 5-11, 2011
Holidays - Sky Events - Space History
Mercury 0.7° north of Regulus
Mars 6° south of Pollux
Neptune 6° south of Moon