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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

ESA to record destruction of spaceship from the inside

•, David Szondy

The fridge may remain an eternal mystery, but ESA plans to answer the latter question when its unmanned Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-5 Georges Lemaître completes its six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The space agency has developed a "black box" camera system designed to record the dramatic event and transmit the images back to Earth after the craft breaks up.

If on some clear night you see an unusually spectacular meteor flash across the sky giving off sparks as it goes, odds are that it's an old satellite burning up as it re-enters the atmosphere. If you happen to be in the emptier parts of the South Pacific, you might even see one of the cargo ships used to resupply the ISS breaking up in a fireworks display at the end of its mission. It's become a familiar sight over the past 50 years, but ESA plans to go one better by mounting European, American, and Japanese recorders inside the ATV-5 to beam back images of the last ATV freighter's final seconds.

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