Alright, alright, one more farewell post for Atlantis just because this image is so very amazing. Captured by the crew aboard the International Space Station, the image shows Atlantis’s glowing hot re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and the plasma trail it left behind.
Shortly before Atlantis’s textbook-clean landing in Florida this morning, it was moving some 17,500 miles per hour around the Earth. So naturally, things got a little warm when the shuttle plunged back into the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. What you’re seeing here is the plasma glow leftover from the super-heated air around Atlantis’s heat shield as it made one final, fiery push through the atmosphere to safely return America’s space travelers to solid ground.