The First Spacecraft to Dock with the Space Station had a Gloriously Beautiful Launch

Illustration for article titled The First Spacecraft to Dock with the Space Station had a Gloriously Beautiful Launch

May 27, 1999: The Space Shuttles were always pretty, but this launch of Discovery was a particularly gorgeous start to the first mission to dock with the International Space Station.

The space shuttle Discovery lifted off on May 27, 1999 for a ten-day mission to the International Space Station. The STS-96 mission was the second assembly and resupply flight, installing foot restraints and the Russian STRELA crane. The mission was the first flight to actually dock with the under-construction space station.

Image credit: NASA

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Got to love the shadow of the plume being cast at the very top of the picture.

A bit like this extraordinary photo from a sunset launch of Atlantis in which the shadow points directly at the Moon.