Good bye #ATV5! Arrivederci ATV5!
That was the send-off tweet from European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti as an unmanned automated transfer vehicle (ATV) cargo ship ended its mission to the International Space Station with a bang over the weekend. The vehicle, named Georges Lemaître, reentered the Earth's atmosphere and burned up safely over an uninhabited area of the southern Pacific Ocean.
A time-lapse video using photos from NASA astronaut Terry Virts shows the ATV detaching from the space station and disappearing into the distance. A darkened Earth rotates in the background, illuminated by the lights from distant cities.
The mission, the fifth by an ATV, also marks the end of the automated transfer vehicle program. Since its debut in 2008, the ferries have been crucial to resupplying the International Space Station, delivering five payloads of 31,500 kilograms (more than 69,400 pounds). They also helped boost the station's orbit to move it out of the way of space debris.
The ATV5 Georges Lemaître -- named for a Jesuit priest and groundbreaking physicist set the record for the heaviest Ariane 5 launch when it climbed into space from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on 29 July 2014.