When astronauts left the International Space Station in early November to return home on the Crew Dragon Endeavour, they took the opportunity to do a fly-around of the ISS and take photos. NASA just released the new images, and they are a stunning look at both the orbiting outpost and our home planet.
The person behind the camera was ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. He began taking photos after Crew Dragon undocked from the Harmony module. Also on board were NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, and JAXA astronaut Aki Hoshide. They had spent six months aboard the ISS.
“Bittersweet feeling about leaving the ISS,” Pesquet tweeted. “When you think about it, it’s really a magical place, almost impossible to reach and which gives you superpowers like flying, or going around the world in 1h30 … It still looks a bit like a daydream.”
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One of the thermal radiator panels appears to be damaged, perhaps from a debris strike. The large white structures visible in this image is part of the thermal control system. The station orbits the Earth in about 92 minutes at an altitude of around 420 km (260 miles). It experiences large fluctuations in temperatures, ranging from 93 C (200 degrees Fahrenheit) when the ISS is exposed to the sun, to about -128 C (-200 F) on the night side of the planet. The complex thermal control system keeps the interior of the ISS at a comfortable 18 to 27 °C (65 to 80? F).
The ISS has had a continuous human presence for over 21 years. The first three-person crew of Expedition 1 arrived on November 2, 2000. Since then, close to 250 people from 19 countries have have made 403 spaceflights to the ISS.
A few days after the Crew-2 returned home, Crew-3 launched and are now on board. Current seven-member Expedition 66 crew are Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos; Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari, Mark Vande Hei and Kayla Barron, all from NASA; and Matthias Maurer from ESA.
You can see the entire album of images from the fly-around on NASA’s Flickr page.