The space shuttle Atlantis got a close-up Sunday while flying 220 miles above the Canary Islands in a postcard-like snapshot taken by an astronaut just before the orbiter arrived at the International Space Station.
In the new shuttle photo, Atlantis hovers on the left side of the frame while one of the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa dominates the right half. The result: An image that has the feeling of an adventure travel advertisement, though to which destination ?? the Atlantic archipelago or low-Earth orbit ? could be up grabs.
Japanese astronaut Sochi Noguchi snapped the Atlantis photo from inside the International Space Station (ISS) shortly before shuttle docked at the orbiting lab Sunday at 10:28 a.m. EDT (1428 GMT). He posted it to his Twitter page, where he has been chronicling his mission under the name Astro_Soichi.
"Space Shuttle Atlantis over Canary Islands. Docked to ISS Sunday afternoon!" Noguchi wrote.
Atlantis is flying what is expected to be its final space mission, this one aimed at delivering a new $200 million Russian compartment ? called Rassvet ("Dawn" in Russian) ? and a load of spare parts to the International Space Station.
The mission is expected to last about 12 days and include three spacewalks to deliver the massive spare parts and replace old batteries on the station's huge solar arrays. Atlantis launched on Friday and is due to land on May 26. [Atlantis shuttle launch photos.]
Noguchi is prolific space photographer aboard the space station and part of a six-person crew living in the orbiting lab.
The arrival of Atlantis, which carries a crew of six, on Sunday temporarily boosted the station's population to 12 people ? one shy of the historic record for total people in one place in space.
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