While terrestrial humans tolerate stinky, sticky garbage trucks, our astronaut brethren opt for something much more beautiful for their disposal runs. This streak of fire across the night sky is the burning of the Cygnus spacecraft, dirty laundry, and other junk. On the flip side, garbage day is a lot less frequent.
Top image: Cygnus burning up over New Zealand on Sunday night.
The Cygnus spacecraft broke free of the International Space Station on Friday, freeing up the Harmony node on the space station for the next supply vehicle. The spacecraft had a a destructive re-entry on Sunday night, a photogenic garbage disposal mission clearing out space on the crammed station.
Cygnus over Europe while docked to the space station on July 26, 2014.
On its way up, Cygnus carried nearly 3,300 pounds of supplies to the station when it berthed on July 16th. The gear included a flock of DOVE microsatellites, along with upgrades for the local trio of SPHERES. After unloading, the spacecraft stayed docked as a bit of extra storage space, then reloaded with 3,550 pounds of junk to carry away in its final garbage-run.
Cygnus being maneuvered by the Canadarm. Image credit: NASA
Astronaut and geophysicist Alexander Gerst manipulated the Canadarm 2 to maneuver Orbital Sciences’s Cygnus capsule free of the space station, releasing it at 6:40 am EDT on Friday.
Cygnus, finally free of the station for the first time since mid-July.
Finally on its own again, Cygnus embarked on an orbit for destructive re-entry, burning up in a blazing streak over New Zealand on Sunday. The re-entry was photographed by Gerst not just for its aesthetic value, but as part of ongoing re-entry studies to help guide the development of new reusable and single-use spacecraft.
The last few streaks marking all that remains of Cygnus.
The next cargo run to the space station by a new Cygnus spacecraft is currently scheduled for mid-October.
Image credits & read more: NASA.