Atlantis Backflips En Route to Station

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Atlantis Backflips En Route to Station
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ATLANTIS: Alpha and Houston, Atlantis. Commencing RPM in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... mark.

ISS: Alpha copies on space-to-ground 2. Please re-transmit.

ATLANTIS: Atlantis, for Alpha. Copy RPM.

COMMENTARY: With that call, the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver started. Steve Frick at the controls for this 9-minute maneuver, rotating the vehicle at three-quarters of a degree per second. Expedition 16 crew located in the Russian segment of the International Space Station, specifically the Zvezda Service Module, where Peggy Whitson and Yuri Malenchenko are poised with still digital cameras, gathering imagery of both the upper surface and the underside of space shuttle Atlantis.

The International Space Station with Atlantis directly beneath it is just crossing over the northeast coast of Central America. The two will now be travelling over the southern Atlantic ocean, traveling 17,500 miles per hour at an altitude of 205 statute miles.

Whitson is using a 400mm lens providing up to 3 inch resolution; Yuri Malenchenko is using an 800 mm lens providing up to 1 inch resolution. The imagery is to include the upper surfaces of the shuttle as well as Atlantis' underside, capturing pictures of the nose landing gear door seals, the main landing gear door seals and the elevon cove.

The imagery from this Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver is expected to result in about 300 detailed photos, and they're just one of the additional inspection techniques to help determine the health of the shuttle's thermal protection system. The photos will later be downlinked through the station's KU band communications system for analysis by system engineers and mission management.

[garbled communications]

COMMENTARY: That last call the voice of Atlantis pilot Alan Poindexter, calling to alert the station crew they can start with the photography. Again, Whitson and Malenchenko poised with their cameras and ready to proceed with a very methodical pattern of photography to ensure they capture all the required documentation needed for analysis.

ATLANTIS: Alpha, Atlantis. End photos.

ISS: Alpha copies. Please Retransmit.

ATLANTIS: Atlantis, relay. Alpha copies.

COMMENTARY: That concluding the photo session, about 90 seconds worth of usable photography time for the underside of space shuttle Atlantis. The Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver starting at 10:23:50 Central time and the photo sequence starting at 10:27 a.m. Central time. They're continuing now with that Pitch Maneuver. The two vehicles traveling over the southern Atlantic at 17,500 miles per hour and Atlantis continuing about 600 feet below the International Space Station.

This is Mission Control, Houston. You're seeing the aft part of space shuttle Atlantis -- now a look with its open payload bay doors -- the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver now complete.

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