The last days of Atlantis are being lived out in Earth’s orbit.
The final mission of the space shuttle has begun with a successful docking manoeuvre with the International Space Station, and over the next week its crew will help the ISS team install some vital modules. These include a Russian laboratory, docking equipment for the replacements for America’s shuttle fleet, which retires at the end of the year, and batteries.
Fitting all this new kit will require three spacewalks. Two more missions will be flown this year to complete the ISS, by Discovery and Endeavour, but Atlantis will return to Earth and be kept as an emergency rescue vehicle, after 32 space flights in its near-30 year career.