Image: Historic Photo Captures Bird's-Eye View of Atlantis Re-entry
For the first time ever, a photo captured the re-entry of a shuttle from space Thursday as Atlantis neared the completion of the program's 135th, and final, mission. (NASA Photo via AP)

Historic Photo Captures Bird's-Eye View of Atlantis Re-entry

Friday, 22 Jul 2011 10:36 AM

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A shutterbug aboard the international space station took the concept of a bird’s-eye view to unprecedented heights and captured the re-entry of the final U.S. space shuttle flight from space in grand fashion.

The historic photo early Thursday captured the contrail of Atlantis as it broke back into the Earth’s atmosphere en route to its 5:56 a.m. picture-perfect landing at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Atlantis, landing, final, shuttle
Atlantis lands for the final time Thursday at Kennedy Space Center. (AP Photo)
After the photo was taken, Atlantis plunged into the atmosphere, where its wings could provide the steering capability that they couldn’t do in the vacuum of space.

Atlantis was traveling at 14 times the speed of sound when it passed over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and dropping at the rate of 200 feet per second, according to the Top of the Ticket blog in the Los Angeles Times.

“Thirteen minutes later, having circled to scrub off speed, the 225,000-pound glider lumbered over the end of Kennedy Space Center's Runway 15 for the last time at 205 knots to begin its groundbound retirement. Technicians can't go beneath the orbiter for 30 minutes after landing, so hot are its protective tiles,” the Top of the Ticket reported.


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