Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Space Shuttle Reentry Track

The Space Shuttle will be landing at the Kennedy Space Center tomorrow (Wednesday) just after lunch. It will land at 1:02 PM EST if it comes in on orbit 238, and about 2:36 PM EST if it has to wait for orbit 239. The reentry track will take it across the continental US, offering some great viewing opportunities.

Information on the shuttle mission and maps of the reentry tracks can be found on the NASA shuttle web site.

The primary track will take it across the midwest (central Nebraska, NE Kansas, SW Missouri) at very high altitude, then across central Alabama, possibly right over Columbus GA, south-central Georgia, then heading south just west of Daytona Beach to KSC. It should be over Alabama and Georgia about 10 minutes before landing.

Based on past experience, you should hear the distinctive double sonic boom a few minutes before landing. It takes it a long time for sound to travel down from something like 200,000 feet (40 miles) plus whatever your sideways distance adds to the hypotenuse; meanwhile, the Shuttle is making pretty good time towards Florida at over Mach 10. If you are close to the track, the sonic boom is thunderous and unforgetable.

The later landing path takes it across Utah and Texas and then along the Gulf Coast, crossing Florida a bit south of Ocala.

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