To make up for the beligured post below, I offer unto you this amazing video of the re-entry of the ESA’s Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle! I’m not in the mood to find an embed-ible video, so just click on the link and be blown away. Don’t watch 20 seconds and then turn away. The longer you watch the more awesome it becomes. I promise it will be the best 2 minutes you’ll spend this week. The video automatically repeats itself, and I’ve now watched it repeat for probably 30 minutes.
From the folks at Skymania:
Yesterday astronauts watched from the space station and two chase planes followed the craft as two engine firings sent it into a steep dive.
Aircraft and shipping had been warned to stay clear of a crash zone 1,700 miles long and 125 miles wide, east of New Zealand.
So what is it you’re seeing? The Jules Verne ATV was a re-supply vessel sent to the ISS 6 months ago. It is larger than the Apollo spacecraft and could easily carry a crew. It is completely self-guided, which means once it leaves the launch pad it is smart enough to link up with the ISS all on its own, which is what it did. The ESA has a greater goal in mind. This might be their entry-way into their first manned spaceflight! When it’s mission was complete ground controllers had no reason to bring it back safely. It wasn’t designed to be reused. Therefore they brought it down over the Pacific Ocean in dramatic style.
The maiden flight of the Automated Transfer Vehicle was a huge success and NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has led calls for it to be developed into Europe’s very own crew-carrying spacecraft.
The ship, which resembled a craft from Star Wars thanks to its X-shaped solar panels, saved astronauts from potential disaster when its rockets were used to move the space station out of the way of dangerous satellite debris.
It also became a favourite anexe of the orbiting outpost where astronauts could relax or hang their sleeping bags.
The Jules Verne was finally used as a garbage truck. It was filled with waste from the space station before undocking on September 5.
The next ATV is due to be launched in 2010 from Kourou in the French Guiana jungle of South America.
I’m not sure if any of it survived the fall, but judging from the size I’d bet it did. You can read a lot more about the event over at Skymania: