The International Space Station looms above Earth during the unorthodox Atlantis fly-around on July 19. The moon can be seen above and to the right of the station.
It's been standard procedure for the space shuttle to make a fly-around and take pictures of the International Space Station just as it's pulling away for the homeward journey. But the procedure was changed for this month's very last visit by the space shuttle Atlantis. After the shuttle backed 600 feet away, pilot Doug Hurley held it in position while the space station rotated 90 degrees to the right. Then Hurley made a half-loop around the station, to give Atlantis' crew members an opportunity to snap pictures of the station from angles never before photographed during a fly-around.
Here are some of the high-resolution pictures. Scores of additional images focus in on details that NASA engineers wanted to check. "The images will be evaluated by experts on the ground to get additional information on the condition of the station's exterior," NASA said.
The International Space Station's solar panels are nearly edge-on in this view. Two Russian Soyuz lifeboats and two Progress cargo ships are docked on the left side.
Earth spreads out nearly 250 miles (400 kilometers) below in the background of this unusual view of the International Space Station.
The sun shines brightly on the International Space Station in this parting shot, captured by Atlantis' crew.
More views from the last shuttle mission:
- Last looks at the shuttle in orbit
- Space station crew watches Atlantis descend
- Photographers capture Atlantis' last landing
- Southern lights are sweeter in space
- Aircraft captures unique view of launch
- Shuttle Atlantis' last trek to liftoff
- Atlantis' flight on PhotoBlog
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