One Last Time: The Shuttle “Belly Flip”

by Nancy Atkinson on July 11, 2011

“Poetry in motion, as Atlantis conducts the last RBAR Pitch Maneuver in shuttle program history,” says NASA TV commentator Rob Navais. Piloted by Space Shuttle commander Chris Ferguson, Atlantis moves through this 9-minute, 360-degree rotation directly beneath the International Space Station. Commonly called the “Belly Flip,” only about 90 seconds of actual high-resolution photography is taken during the entire maneuver. It enables the ISS crew to photograph Atlantis’ Thermal Protection System for engineers on the ground to check for any damage to the heat resistant tiles.

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Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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