First Views of ISS at Full Length, Full Power

Space shuttle Discovery undocked from the ISS on Wednesday, providing the dramatic first views of the space station with its full company of solar arrays unfurled. “Discovery, Alpha, Godspeed,” ISS commander Mike Fincke radioed after the shuttle departed. “Thanks for making us symmetrical, giving us full power, and all the other wonderful things you did for us. You did great work. Come again.”

“Thanks for the great work as well,” shuttle commander Lee Archambault replied. “Have a good one, we’ll see you on the ground in about a month.”

The fly-around was timed to begin at orbital sunrise, to allow for good lighting for the much anticipated pictures. But everyone had to wait until later for a high-definition video replay on NASA TV. The shuttle’s KU-band television antenna didn’t have a good link with NASA’s relay satellites until after the fly-around was complete. The image above has been updated to show an official NASA image taken by the Discovery astronauts during the flyaround, and below are a few screenshots from the high-def replay, showing different views of the ISS, post undocking.

UPDATE: Video of the flyaround is now available, and can be seen below:

Screenshot of ISS flyaround by shuttle Discovery.  Credit: NASA TV
Screenshot of ISS flyaround by shuttle Discovery. Credit: NASA TV

ISS.  Credit: NASA TV
ISS. Credit: NASA TV

At a mission briefing after the undocking, mission managers expressed their excitement at seeing the images of the space station at full length, saying they felt an extreme amount of pride and joy for everyone involved with the ISS project.

“We’re getting ready to turn the station over to the research community,” said Dan Hartman, chairman of the space station mission management team, “and they will be challenged to keep the crew busy — and that’s a good thing. By the end of May (when the ISS crew size will increase to six), we’ll be ready to go.”

The Discovery crew took Sandy Magnus along with them, bringing her her home after her long-duration stay on the ISS, and left behind Koichi Wakata, Japan’s first long-duration astronaut.

The shuttle is scheduled to land on Saturday, March 28 with the first landing opportunity at 1:43 pm EDT.

14 Replies to “First Views of ISS at Full Length, Full Power”

  1. I just saw them orbiting the earth apart from each other. I was watching tv and didn’t even know it was going to pass by when I first saw the ISS throught the window… Was pretty cool.

  2. i am now experiencing jealousy of Wowbagger’s sighting of both the ISS and Discovery, I am under overcast right now

  3. The ISS passed over Cornwall twice last evening. I was watching with my Celestron 15 X 70 bins (handheld), the first pass looked normal, the second appeared to have something hanging off the back, this was Discovery doing its fly-around! On checking I discovered that this event corrisponded exactly with its time over Cornwall. RESULT!

    Roseland Observatory.

  4. I’m so jealous of you guys. I’ve had to be indoors for all the flyovers where I live. But I did catch the shuttle and ISS flying close together quite by accident about 2 years ago.

  5. Great to see Space Station Alpha in a symmetrical config. Kudos to both the astronauts & the engineering team who both worked together to get Station Alpha to this stage.

  6. Well alrighty! Ve gots power! YO!

    Now is that ‘Better late than never’? or is that ‘Better never late’?

    The ISS is almost ready to recieve visitors.. lots of em. Hopefully some of the visitors won’t be from this planet. At least it would be a good place to meet anyway… “Anybody home?”

  7. ISS is just a big empty garage. The most useless project ever, 100 billion U.S. dollars discarded in the mud. Voyager, Cassini, Spirit is a true exploration of outer space. Hubble, Chandra is a true science. I recommend the interview with Nobel prize winner Steven Weinberg

  8. Beautiful pictures – thank you for posting them Nancy. ISS is so bright in the sky now it’s an amazing sight. Unfortunately we were clouded out last night too so no chance to see the two together.

    Safe home Discovery. 🙂

  9. Dear Peter,

    after reading the linked article you’ve posted, I have to correct you, Steven Weinberg did not claim that the ISS “is just a big empty garage”, but an “orbital turkey”. Where do you have your “information” from?

    Professor Steven Weinberg further says: “Yes, I think the ISS is just one example of NASA’s ridiculous overemphasis on manned spaceflight.”

    But why ISS and why not the MIR or even Salyut 1 to 7?

    He says: “I’m willing to grant that maybe the ISS is a good place to study the effect of low gravity on people, but I don’t care about the effect of low gravity on people. That’s only of interest if you are going to go, [i.e.,] continue human exploration.”

    I do really hope that in near future there will be Nobel prizes awarded to scientists involved in human space flight. It is rediculous that Mr. Weinberg who got his Nobel prize for mere fundamental research, claims that space science has to be either cost effective or otherwise “raises a larger question: is it worth doing that?”

    It is rediculous how theoretical physics treads space science like an absurdity. So thank you for the link to the Weinberg interview, Peter, because it showed us a new example for Nobel prize winners’ “Eseleien”.

  10. I too saw them!! Yesterday ( 26 Mar 09) at around 20:05 GMT..We were doing Globe at night in our university when all of us saw these two objects trailing each other… It was an awesome sight….

  11. Hi all –

    Having viewed the HD video of the shuttle fly-around I got busy creating some 3D anaglyph views.

    I have them loaded on flickr – look for my name – or I’d happily share with who ever wants to view them : )

    nathanialburtonbradford at

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