September 5, 2011 - Belly of the Beast

Belly of the Beast Known as the “rendezvous pitch maneuver” or more simply the “backflip,” the graceful 360° turn executed by the space shuttle prior to docking with the International Space Station is a safety precaution born of the 2003 Columbia disaster. The backflip allows the ISS crew to inspect the shuttle’s delicate heat shield for any damage that may have happened during launch. In addition, it affords a unique perspective on the shuttle. Seen here during the STS-115 mission, which was launched five years ago this week, the nose of the space shuttle Atlantis tips up to reveal some of the more than 20,000 reusable black insulating tiles that protect the orbiter’s belly from reentry temperatures approaching 2,000° F. Newer tiles, which have flown fewer times, appear darker than older ones.

Image credit: NASA

Weekly Calendar

September 5-11, 2011

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 5

Labor Day

1964: OGO-1 launched
1977: Voyager 1 launched

Moon phase Tuesday 6

1947: First rocket launch (V-2) from an aircraft carrier
1983: STS-8 Challenger makes first shuttle night landing

Moon phase Wednesday 7

1995: STS-69 Endeavour launched

Moon phase Thursday 8

Mercury 0.7° north of Regulus

1966: “Star Trek” premieres
1967: Surveyor 5 launched
2000: STS-106 Atlantis launched
2004: Genesis spacecraft crash-lands on return to Earth

Moon phase Friday 9

Mars 6° south of Pollux

1789: William Bond born
1892: E. E. Barnard discovers Amalthea
1975: Viking 2 launched
1982: Conestoga 1 launched
1994: STS-64 Discovery launched
2006: STS-115 Atlantis launched

Moon phase Saturday 10

Neptune 6° south of Moon

1857: James Keeler born
1967: Surveyor 5 lands on Moon
1978: Venera 11 launched
2011: GRAIL spacecraft launched

Moon phase Sunday 11

1877: James Jeans born
1985: International Cometary Explorer satellite probes Comet Giacobini-Zinner (first comet flyby)
1997: Mars Global Surveyor arrives at Mars

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.