Astronauts aboard the International Space Station captured an extraordinary photo of an unmanned European cargo ship as it docked to the orbiting outpost last week.
The European Space Agency’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) launched into orbit on March 23, and arrived at the space station five days later, on March 28. The robotic cargo ship delivered about 7 tons of supplies, including water, oxygen, food, clothing, experiments and propellant.
The robotic ATV vehicles are designed to automatically dock to the space station. In this photo, the ATV-3 is approaching its parking spot at the Zvezda service module on the Russian segment of the orbiting complex.
The photo shows the ATV-3’s distinctive x-wing solar arrays bathed in light from the spacecraft’s sophisticated laser guidance system. The starry night sky and the glow of lights from Earth below make up the remarkable backdrop, as the two vehicles fly 240 miles (386 kilometers) above the planet.