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NASA ISS Space Science

Historic Pairing: Shuttle Docked To the ISS 133

astroengine writes "It's been imaged in artists' renderings, but never before in actual photos: the sight of a space shuttle berthed at the International Space Station. This view of shuttle Endeavour, taken by Italian astronaut Paulo Nespoli from aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule on May 23, is the culmination of 36 space shuttle missions to build the outpost over the past 12 years. NASA wanted the shot before it retires the shuttle fleet after one final mission in July."
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Historic Pairing: Shuttle Docked To the ISS

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  • That I actual prefer the artistic imaginings of them.

    It doesn't look as cool as I would have expected it. Does look fascinating though.

  • This looks shopped. I can tell from some of the pixels and from seeing quite a few shops in my time.

  • Not True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WatcherXP ( 658784 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @04:35PM (#36367386)

    Too bad about the "but never before in actual photos" statement, as this is not actually true. []

  • by Soft ( 266615 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @04:37PM (#36367420)
    Now that Paolo Nespoli is back on the ground, I'll miss the updates on his photo album [], where he regularly treated us with pictures of Earth, cities, and fun stuff on the ISS itself. Fortunately, they're still online!

    (And it's Paolo, not Paulo; he's Italian, not Portuguese...)

  • Shot in aperture priority (@ f8, ISO 200) with a Nikon D3X with 24-120mm f3.5-f5.6 zoom. Looks like it was focused at infinity.

    Full resolutions photos available via link in article, or here [].

  • Labels? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lifyre ( 960576 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @04:43PM (#36367518)

    Now if someone could just label all the different parts and what they do it would be useful for those of us who think this is cool but don't exactly follow it closely.

    For clarity I mean more than 1) Space Shuttle 2) International Space Station. I think I got that part figured out.

  • Geez, and they got it upside-down. How embarrassing.

  • I know the article's short, but I kept reading and kept arriving at:

    NASA spent 12 years and 36 missions, using space shuttles, to build a space shuttle landing dock.
    NASA uses the completed dock and takes a picture just before retiring the fleet.

    Isn't that kind of like using a 2-seater to awkwardly haul cement and building materials from Lowes
    or HomeDepot to build yourself a driveway, taking forever to do it, and then selling your car once it's
    built and taking the (Russian) bus instead?
    Oh, and taking a pictu

    • Your car-analogy fu is strong.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      More like promising your building project can do anything, having the politicians cut the budget until your grand project is little more than a driveway for a car, THEN selling the car once its built and taking the Russian bus instead.

    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      Wouldn't it be ironic if the inspection of the shuttle revealed damage making it unsafe for reentry, making the crew take the russian capsule to come back ? Then the shuttle would become the new permanent module of the ISS.
      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        Why don't they just retire all the space shuttles as new modules to the space station? Saves on parking costs on the ground and gives a little more elbow room. On the plus side, they can send up fuel and they'll be ready to go whenever Bruce Willis wants to blow up some asteroids without having to dock with some insane Russian.
        • by Orffen ( 1994222 )

          Because they're not designed for long-term stays... in spaaaaaaace! (fuel cells, leaky atmosphere etc.).

      • It would be sad and ironic, however the shuttle couldn't be a permanent part of the station. Whilst docked at the station, it does draw power from the Station via the STSPTS [] but most things the shuttle takes care of by itself whilst docked and its lifetime in space (even with the power transfer system) is limited to about 28 days. Sure, this could be extended but within a short amount of time, the shuttle systems would seize up and it would be uninhabitable. Plus the ISS changes aspect (when the shuttle is
  • by DG ( 989 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @04:46PM (#36367566) Homepage Journal

    ...who hears the Star Trek - The Motion Picture "Enterprise in Dock Fly-by" music in my head when I look at those pictures?

    The Blue Danube would also be an acceptable answer.


    • by MRe_nl ( 306212 )

      No, but I think "You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought",
      followed by "The Shield is down. Red Squadron engage".

      Audio: The Blue Danube by a mile.
      Wouldn't it be cool if the docking-computer on the space shuttle played the Blue Danube when it was activated.

    • Makes me think of the Babylon 5 intro ...

      "Humans and aliens wrapped in two million five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal ... all alone in the night."

      Of course, there's no spinning. And not that much metal. And no Mexicans. But, other than that, it's perfect!

  • I find this photo very easy to masturbate to.
    • sick pervert, normal people would only find the topside and cockpit of the shuttle arousing, but here you are looking at the underbelly and engine bells and getting off. shameful.
  • These are awesome pictures.

    I feel somewhat sad with the thought that such a marvel of human engineering won't fly again. It's a shame that the "disposable" culture has reached even the upper echelons of science research.

    It clearly shows why the US can't be a world leader anymore. The space shuttle is an inspiring achievement - when you dump that for a disposable capsule that just falls from the sky while trying to keep the people in there alive... well, you can't lead the world towards an inspiring fu
    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      it was an inspiring achievement, then it never lived up to any of its promise or hype, now its nearly 40 years old and time to move on, besides you don't see many "leaders" driving their 1976 ford pinto around do you?

      • Never lived up to it's promise? In it's heyday, the shuttle program launched about every month. There's places where the buses don't go that often.

        What did you think would happen, an hourly spacebus to the zero-G shopping mall?

        It's a major shame that this marvel is retired, but the real BAD THING is that there's apparently not a single politician left with any sort of vision for the future short of how much cash they can get in their pockets, so there's no follow-up. We've been up there, and, well, that's i

        • It's a major shame that this marvel is retired, but the real BAD THING is that there's apparently not a single politician left with any sort of vision for the future short of how much cash they can get in their pockets, so there's no follow-up. We've been up there, and, well, that's it. Let's go back into our caves and watch dementing television.

          I guess it's up to China, now.

          Much as I hate to defend politicians, but those with grand vision for something so beyond the scope of most people's daily lives are not elected by the current generation of voters, especially if they perceive little money or benefit to them personally. As it is, it's a hard sell to unemployed or minimum wage Joe Sixpack to have tax money keep rocket scientists employed.

          Kennedy had it much easier--behind his grand vision was "The Soviets are beating us at every step into space so far, but we'll beat them to

          • That's a good point, but on the other hand they keep managing to get elected while spending what, a quarter or so of the gnp on the military. The space program, for all it's bad management and political strubbles, costs only a fraction of that.

            I realise I'm probably preaching to the choir, but cut the military by half and invest that into various long-term R&D and science things, and in a decade you'll again be the nation you were half a century ago.

      • by cusco ( 717999 )
        I never lived up to its promise because NASA was forced to allow lawyers (congresscritters) rather than engineers to design a space craft, and once it was running they had to devote the lion's share of its operations to military projects rather than science or civilian tech.

        Does anything **ever** live up to its hype?
    • Yeah, sure, excpet that it was just some "disposable capsule" that got us to the moon and back, perhaps the single most inspiring achievement any culture in the history of mankind has ever managed.

      Symmetry is a pretty big deal when desiging moving bodies that will have 6 degrees of dynamic freedom through which to move. Space capsules: don't knock 'em until you study 'em.
    • The analogy I would use with the Space Shuttle is that it's like using a Humvee to drive to the grocery store and back.

      The humvee is an impressive vehicle. But, for the most part, you don't need the capabilities of the humvee just to get groceries and it's a pretty expensive thing to run just to go get groceries.

      Similar thing here. The Space Shuttle is an impressive vehicle. It can do some really amazing things. However, we don't need to do those things. We don't need to retrieve satellites from LEO--w

  • I say we leave one up there (send it up with minimal crew and let them hitch rides home with the Russians or others). The shuttle still would make for an awesome emergency re-entry vehicle--a classic life boat with some extra kick.
    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      The shuttle still would make for an awesome emergency re-entry vehicle--a classic life boat with some extra kick.

      The APU fuel will freeze, the water based fuel cells will run out of reactants, freeze, then crack. The RCS oxidizer will probably eventually freeze. Thermal issues are kinda unclear. Also there was something weird about the tires that I don't remember. Anyway, facing absolutely certain death, you could try a mothballed escape shuttle with only almost certain death.

      Frankly the best on-orbit use of an "extra" shuttle, although completely and utterly non-heroic and terrible PR, would be as a garbage scow,

      • I'm not a specialist, but I believe that at that altitude it's "only" -120C or so. There are things that are still liquid at that temperature, so fuel might not be an issue.

    • Well, they'd work as a classic lifeboat for about two weeks. Then the batteries would die and you wouldn't have any control surfaces on landing. Or life support. Plus, the shuttles leak atmosphere. Not a significant amount for a 2 week mission, but if it was much longer it would be an issue.
  • Either the Shuttle is larger than I thought, or the ISS is smaller than I thought.

    • by gdp007 ( 737002 )
      Shuttle is large. It's meant to haul a huge amount of cargo, plus seven people. Definitely jaw-droppingly worth doing is visiting an Apollo rocket, say the one at NASA Houston. Now that's big. Then think about the size of the cargo area (3 humans) compared to the rest of the rocket. Jaw hits floor!
      • by danhuby ( 759002 )

        It's not that big - remember that it can be transported strapped to the top of a 747. []

        The ISS is probably smaller than the GP thought.

        • by rikkards ( 98006 )

          I find the shuttle bigger than I thought. I realized that when I saw Enterprise at Air and Space museum at Dulles. Also realized how small the Enola Gay really is. Seemed bigger in pictures possibly because of the enormity of what it had done.

        • It's not that big - remember that it can be transported strapped to the top of a 747.

          If your definition of "not that big" is "a bit smaller than a 747", there is something VERY wrong with you ....

    • At the same time, scroll up a bit and find the link to the pic of MIR and the Shuttle that someone else provided - you might actually be shocked!
    • ISS small, roughly 51 meters by 21 meter diameter; the truss is long, 109 meters wide
    • Consider that most of the individual pieces of the ISS actually went into orbit *inside* the shuttle bay.... So the answer is yes: the Shuttle is larger than you thought, and the ISS is smaller than you thought ;-)

    • "Either the Shuttle is larger than I thought, or the ISS is smaller than I thought."

      The Shuttle is surprisingly large. When I was younger, I always had an image in my mind of it being closer to a large business jet or a school bus with wings in terms of size. I saw the full-scale mockups in Florida and Texas last summer, and was shocked. It's actually closer to the size of a single-aisle airliner.

      I think the reason for my earlier perception is that I'd seen photos of the Shuttle on its 747 carrier before, b

      • It's interesting to see how people estimate the size of the shuttle. Most people assume that the ET is about the size of a petrol tanker truck because it's (roughly) the same dimensions and this is the only recognizable thing they can think of (this seems to all be done subconsciously). . From this, you extrapolate up and you end up with the size of the orbiter being about the size of a large business jet as you say.

        In actual fact, the external tank is a LOT bigger: []

  • I know this is obvious, but from the photographer's perspective and humans needing to perceive up from down .. how he chose his up from down to take the photo.

    Somebody make a Descent map of the ISS already. (if 15 years late)

  • I was wondering if it were not a good idea to leave the shuttle paired to the ISS? Is the shuttle that old that it cannot be used even as a spare room? Alternatively there may be other interesting uses that could benefit ISS.
  • It looked like these two are mating/having sex. :P

  • "The party and the Krikkit warship looked, in their writhings, a little like two ducks, one of which is trying to make a third duck inside the second duck, while the second duck is trying very hard to explain that it doesn't feel ready for a third duck right now, is uncertain that it would want any putative third duck to be made by this particular first duck anyway, and certainly not while it, the second duck, was busy flying." []

  • by PPH ( 736903 )

    The geotag on those photos puts them in Studio City, California. Somewhere on the Warner Bros. back lot to be exact.

    • The geotag on those photos puts them in Studio City, California. Somewhere on the Warner Bros. back lot to be exact.

      I think the location derived from GPS satalites are only going to be on earth (other possible places that match the distances between satalites are going to be in space). This is done because if you knew both potential locations for the GPS satalite response times given (i.e. the one on earth and the one in space), would would be able to work out exactly where the GPS satalites are orbiting (the percieved risk is that someone could knock them out of orbit or otherwise interfere with them and cause problem w

  • The first, and probably the last
  • They should have folded up the robotic arm for the shot. The arm is extended it that position to check the tiles underneath the spacecraft, this has been done on every flight since Colombia was lost. Now everyone who sees these photos will be reminded of the Colombia disaster, when the thoughts should instead be centered on what an achievement is the docking of a space station and a reusable spacecraft.

    • Actually I was reminded only of the fact that they use that arm to scan the underside, but not so much the Columbia disaster. Depends on your point of view I suppose.

      • Maybe. When explaining things to laymen I tend to give them the whole story. When I'll be asked about this photo in the future, I'll put it like you said: I'll mention that they scan the underside but I won't mention under what circumstances the practice started. Thanks for the idea.

  • Last week a beautiful sight passed over my house, visible to the naked eye - a bright yellow dot, followed about half a degree by a much smaller, white dot.

    Moving in perfect unison.

    My memory of that spectacle is not going to fade any time soon, though sadly not so for any chance of my beholding it again.


You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10