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NASA Science

Shuttle Reentry Over the Continental US 139

TheOtherChimeraTwin notes that the shuttle Discovery will land at Kennedy Space Center on Monday morning at 8:48 EDT. The craft will make a rare "descending node" overflight of the continental US en route to landing in Florida. Here are maps of the shuttle's path if is lands on orbit 222 as planned, or on the next orbit. says: " takes the shuttle about 35 minutes to traverse the path shown... Observers in the northwestern USA will see the shuttle shortly after 5 am PDT blazing like a meteoric fireball through the dawn sky. As Discovery makes its way east, it will enter daylight and fade into the bright blue background. If you can't see the shuttle, however, you might be able to hear it. The shuttle produces a sonic double-boom that reaches the ground about a minute and a half after passing overhead."
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Shuttle Reentry Over the Continental US

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @07:32PM (#31890978)

    Watch the touch down too! I rewrote the nose wheel steering GN&C module in '89 and the stuff that makes landings "perfect" in '91. They were blowing tires with rough landings. Since then, the touch downs are PERFECT and smooooooooooth.

    Hi JV, KM, DC, BW, AR, LP, SM, JY, PP, and the rest of the old GN&C team!

  • by bondsbw ( 888959 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @07:47PM (#31891064)

    What should I look for, about 500 miles straight-line distance along the path from the runway?

    Last time I had this chance, I think I saw a plane cross the sky, but it seemed too slow.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @07:55PM (#31891120)

    Drag is a good thing on reentry, where you are slowing down as fast as the heat shield will let you.

    Why slow down as fast as possible? It's not like the shuttle couldn't spend a few hours gradually slowing down at a safe altitude.

    Or is there a reason they want it to come in as fast as possible?

  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @08:00PM (#31891158)

    Click the link in the summary ... it draws you a pretty picture. If you live within 500 miles of the runway, ask your neighbor, every Floridian has probably seen at least one reentry.

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @08:16PM (#31891262) Homepage

    You want to lose as much of the speed as possible in the initial stages of reentry, high in the atmosphere; before you hit the dense parts. In those higher areas the lift to keep you up there longer could only be produced basically almost at orbital speeds...while what you want to do is slow down.

    Shuttle actually "flies" in a quite un-aerodynamic position through large part of reentry preciselly to maximise drag.

  • by SimonInOz ( 579741 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @08:25PM (#31891326)

    Careful - we wrote all the code that your systems call ... have you noticed how people don't actually write new stuff anymore? They just connect existing stuff together?

    In the bank where I currently work, there is a palimpset of systems, and if you dig far enough, there is the old COBOL stuff, still bashing out the bytes.

    Eventually, all the old COBOL programmers are going to retire and/or die and then all the banking systems in the world will be running on code written and support by - who, exactly?

    Now get off my lawn! Old geeks indeed. Pah.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @09:37AM (#31895100)
    And drag doesn't matter till the vehicle drops below Mach 2 or so. Also the Shuttle has to carry stuff and have those big engines sticking out the back. I'd say its pretty aerodynamic given its shape. If I were the grandparent poster, I might be asking if a better lifting body could be developed, so that the Shuttle approaches landing a bit slower (ie, at a slower speed and better glide ratio). Given that no one has yet crashed a Shuttle, I don't think this is a serious issue, but you never know, they haven't landed that many Shuttles (it could be comparable in frequency to the failure modes like SRB or heat shield failures, but just not have happened yet).

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter