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One Last Time: The Shuttle “Belly Flip”

“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.

About 

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

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • calciu July 11, 2011, 2:21 PM

    my god i really hope it’s the last time i hear anything about this shuttle programe, it’s so obsolete !!! they talk about going again to the moon and to Mars but in reality all they can do is shoot this overdimensioned plane into orbit to place satellites. it is a great achievement … like 20 years ago. move on people ! a few clouds in the sky ? delay the mission! windy ? delay the mission ! NASA for me has become, and i repeat HAS BECOME, a huge dissapointment !. They went on the moon 42 years ago. Well guess what they want to go again in 2025 . My dear god 60 years in between ??? are you kidding me ?

    be carefull NASA, you are playing with my space dreams and i won’t take that!

    ps. pls restrain yourselves from bringing into the picture the ISS. OBSOLETE OBSOLETE OBSOLETE

    • Anonymous July 11, 2011, 3:57 PM

      The most advanced spacecraft ever built is obsolete? I’m interested in seeing your superior designs.

    • Anonymous July 11, 2011, 4:26 PM

      Even when the first starship is ready to go to Alpha Centauri, there will still be a need to do ‘mundane’ movement of people and materials from Earth to LEO and back.

      Sorry you’re so bored, but some of us would jump at the chance to be involved in even *that* much…

      • calciu July 11, 2011, 6:08 PM

        build a starship and i swear i will never complain ! i am just tired of NASA’s antiques. again, they did a great job but please move on already !

        • Anonymous July 12, 2011, 12:14 AM

          If it is developed, and performs as hoped, the U.K. Skylon would be a much better means of reaching Low Earth Orbit…

          …But I suspect your cries of ‘obsolescence’ have more to do with the destination, than the means. LEO will continue to be important (for reasons including, but by no means limited to how we go beyond), and therefore, how we get there will be, too,

          Again, I’m sorry that you’re not entertained.But contrary to what many say, we can’t do this with ‘inspiration’ as a primary goal. I remember the Apollo (and post-Apollo) situation to be enthralled with the average person’s inspiration, interest and attention span.

          Those who care about space, will find a way to be involved, regardless…

          And I hope you don’t long for a return to the Constellation project, which would’ve given us little more capability than Apollo did, for far too much money and time. *That* was following an obsolete model.

    • Anonymous July 11, 2011, 4:31 PM

      There are other countries that are planning for space too. I bet that China will be the ones with the first moon-base.

      • calciu July 11, 2011, 6:06 PM

        hmmm i dont like that either, they are communists and i dont like red. sorry but no thanks !

      • Anonymous July 12, 2011, 12:02 AM

        Check back with me when they do more than one manned LEO flight about every other year…

        …which may happen soon, but only because their small space station is almost ready. Their flight rate will have to ramp up somewhat too support that. But sorry guys, it’s still LEO. A station’s something new for *them,* and that’s fine, but expect no Moon bases from them soon.

    • Baris Bicer July 11, 2011, 5:00 PM

      I hope one day we’ll finally get over this superficial mentality of everything being up-to-date. There’s no such thing as a spacecraft that moves quickly and is as easy to use as driving a car, and there never will be.

      Until the day comes when every average person could appreciate space and the people that get us there, I guess we’ll just have to deal with people like you.

      • calciu July 11, 2011, 6:05 PM

        … indeed you have to deal with persons like me who are tired of artif satellites and “majestic ” pictures of the plane lying on its belly.

      • Stephane Labelle July 11, 2011, 7:43 PM

        Baris. It is the only reusable spacecraft capable to capture and bring a satellite back to earth, the only one in which 7 astronauts can fly at the same time and you find it obsolete? It is a beautiful machine.

  • calciu July 11, 2011, 2:21 PM

    my god i really hope it’s the last time i hear anything about this shuttle programe, it’s so obsolete !!! they talk about going again to the moon and to Mars but in reality all they can do is shoot this overdimensioned plane into orbit to place satellites. it is a great achievement … like 20 years ago. move on people ! a few clouds in the sky ? delay the mission! windy ? delay the mission ! NASA for me has become, and i repeat HAS BECOME, a huge dissapointment !. They went on the moon 42 years ago. Well guess what they want to go again in 2025 . My dear god 60 years in between ??? are you kidding me ?

    be carefull NASA, you are playing with my space dreams and i won’t take that!

    ps. pls restrain yourselves from bringing into the picture the ISS. OBSOLETE OBSOLETE OBSOLETE

  • Emre Olcaytu July 11, 2011, 3:05 PM

    omg its time to say enough to this actions

  • Anonymous July 11, 2011, 3:56 PM

    Beautiful and majestic.

  • Anonymous July 11, 2011, 4:01 PM

    @ Peter peete & calciu

    /rasp

  • Anonymous July 11, 2011, 4:40 PM

    wild

  • Anonymous July 11, 2011, 7:51 PM

    awesome !!!

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