At 2:14pm EST today the space shuttle Discovery successfully docked with the International Space Station, 220 miles above Australia. This will be the last time Discovery will visit the space station, indeed the last time it will fly at all in its long and illustrious career.
The image above was pulled from live video feed of the docking procedure via NASA HD TV on Ustream. I rotated the image 90º for a better view….the shuttle was actually positioned nose-cone pointing Earthward when it docked. (You can make out a bit of the NASA TV logo at the lower right corner.)
Traveling nearly 24,000 mph, the ISS and Discovery docked above Australia and were flying over Central America 40 minutes later. Within another 25 minutes they were over nighttime Europe! Incredible.
Because of some transference of momentum from the shuttle to the ISS, which is currently “heavy” at 1.2 million pounds of mass, it took about half an hour to allow for natural dampening of the movement created by the docking procedure.
Discovery (OV-103), the third of NASA’s fleet of reusable, winged spaceships, arrived at Kennedy Space Center in November 1983. It was launched on its first mission, flight 41-D, on August 30, 1984.
Best of luck to the STS-133 mission crew! Their work is just beginning.
Image: NASA TV