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14 July 2011

An Astronaut-Eye View of the Space Station

The view of the International Space Station captured by NASA spacewalker Ron Garan, features the recently delivered Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer in the foreground. A Russian Progress cargo ship and a Soyuz crew capsule are docked on the left end of the station. The structure extending to the left of the AMS is a thermal radiator. One of the station's gold-colored solar arrays is visible in the background. And off to the right, the shuttle Atlantis is docked to the station's Tranquility module.CREDIT: Ron Garan/NASA

“Good morning Atlantis, this is Elton John.”

That was the pre-recorded message astronauts on NASA’s last shuttle mission woke up to this morning, followed by an original version of “Rocket Man” by the British pop star himself.

"Elton John. Music legend. Wow. That is absolutely fantastic," replied Atlantis' commander, Christopher Ferguson, MSNBC reported.

The 10 astronauts in the mission then turned to the current task of hauling cargo back and forth, a day after their spacewalk on Tuesday, the last of NASA's 30-year shuttle era.

After this final mission is over, the focus of the U.S. space program will shift to the International Space Station. With that end nearing, the images that NASA spacewalker Ron Garan posted to Twitter seem even more poignant.

The shuttle Atlantis has been in space 32 times since 1985, and has orbited the earth 4,648 times. This last mission began on July 8 and is due to end with a pre-dawn landing on Thursday, July 21. (The mission was originally slated for 12 days but was extended to 13).

- Discovery News