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After a 5-month stay at the International Space Station, Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli snapped one-of-a-kind photos of the Space Shuttle docked at the ISS, on his way back to Earth in a Soyuz craft. This is the very first time photos have captured an American orbiter docked to the International Space Station.

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The photo-op arose because, by sheer coincidence, the Soyuz capsule was scheduled to come home while Endeavor was docked. Two such ISS missions have never overlapped before, said a NASA spokesperson. Realizing the rare opportunity, the astronauts and space agencies arranged a photo shoot.

After the Soyuz capsule took off on March 23, Mission Control Moscow rotated the ISS 130 degrees to provide Nespoli with an optimal view of the docked shuttle. With the capsule paused for a few minutes at 600 feet away, the astronaut managed to take video footage and dozens of photographs.

The images are likely to be not only the first but also the last of their kind, since NASA’s final shuttle mission flies in July.

[via NASA via BBC]

Space Shuttle docked at the International Space Station

Space Shuttle docked at the International Space Station

Space Shuttle docked at the International Space Station

Space Shuttle docked at the International Space Station

Space Shuttle docked at the International Space Station

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