Astronauts Capture Stunning Photos Of The International Space Station On Their Way Back To Earth

For the first time in seven years, the International Space Station (ISS) was featured in a cosmic photoshoot meant to celebrate the long and fruitful existence of the orbital outpost.

This month marks two important milestones in the history of the orbiting research facility, NASA announced yesterday — when the space agency released the first-ever 8K video filmed on board the ISS.

On November 2, the space station celebrated 18 years of being continuously inhabited by an astronaut crew, the Inquisitr recently reported. Another big anniversary is coming up later this month, as the ISS will celebrate 20 years since its first module was launched into space on November 20.

To kick off the festivities, the members of Expedition 55-56 took a stunning photo survey of the space station as they performed a fly around of the ISS during their trip back to Earth, reports Spaceflight Now.

The spectacular snapshots showcase the exterior of the orbital outpost, photographed form a variety of angles that also show our planet in the background. This is the first photo survey of the ISS since 2011 and served “to document the external appearance” of the orbiting laboratory, notes the media outlet.

“The last time astronauts captured such detailed imagery during a fly around of the station was when the final space shuttle mission departed in July 2011.”

The photos were released earlier this week by the Russian space agency Roscosmos and NASA, and are available on the Spaceflight Now website. All of the images were captured on October 4 by the three-member crew leaving the ISS to head back home after a six-month stay in space.

As the Inquisitr reported at the time, the astronauts to depart the space station in early October were NASA’s Drew Feustel — ISS commander during Expedition 56 — and Ricky Arnold, along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos.

The trio boarded the Soyuz MS-08 capsule that had carried them to the space station in March and flew it around the ISS to snap the photos before steering toward Earth for their long-awaited homecoming. According to Spaceflight Now, the snapshots were taken by Feustel, who shot the images through a window of the capsule’s habitation module.

The ISS is a grandiose construction weighing almost 420 metric tons and was assembled in space over the course of more than 30 mission spanning an entire decade.

“The space station is approximately the size of a football field: a 460-ton, permanently crewed platform orbiting 240 miles above Earth,” notes the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. “It is about four times as large as the Russian space station Mir and five times as large as the U.S. Skylab.”

The first segment of the orbital outpost — the Russian control module Zarya, which translates as “sunrise” — was shipped off into orbit on November 20, 1998, atop a Russian Proton rocket.

The second element of the space station — the U.S.-built Unity module — followed it on December 4 of the same year and was carried into orbit by the Space Shuttle Endeavour. This was the first space shuttle mission dedicated to the assembly of the station.