On 8 March 2001, the space shuttle Discovery took off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on mission STS-102, a rendezvous with the International Space Station.
The first three-person resident crew of the ISS, known as Expedition 1, had been living on the space station since November of the previous year, and it was time for them to come home.
Aboard Discovery were the three members of Expedition 2, ready to swap with their counterparts. A similar handover has now happened 53 more times – the ISS has been continuously inhabited for more than 17 years, with the 6-person Expedition 55 now in residence.
The photo shows the rocket’s large external fuel tank falling back to Earth at the end of the launch phase of the STS-102 mission, somewhere over western Europe.
Originally published by Cosmos as Falling back to Earth
Curated content from the editorial staff at Cosmos Magazine.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.