Friday, December 22, 2006

1 P.M. Western Time: Space Shuttle Looking for a Place to Land

If you've ever seen the space shuttle fly over Portland on its way to Edwards Air Force base, you know why this morning started out sounding so exciting. But alas, watching the orbit on the NASA channel as they decide where to try and land, it appears the shuttle will approach the United States from the south. Darn it. We probably would have cloud cover but if we didn't, and the descent went over Portland, you can see the spacecraft with the naked eye.

The first time was the most thrilling because it was at night and I had no idea what it was. All of a sudden this huge glowing trail began to cross the sky and at the very front was a silver speck. It didn't look like a meteor - nothing was burning up - but the shuttle disturbs the atmosphere in a way that makes a glowing trail. I must confess, I wondered if our friends in Russia could be sending us a little something, and it wasn't till the 11 o'clock news that I learned what had really happened.

By the way, I was watching from the second floor window of a house on SE 23rd and across the street there were people outside of a corner restaurant. I almost yelled out but I thought, "What do you say?" so I remained in stunned silence. The trail in the sky glowed for a few seconds before fading out. I seem to remember reading that a mere 15 minutes later the shuttle was rolling on the ground in Southern California.

The next time they announced they were diverting the shuttle from Florida to Edwards Air Force Base, I was ready. I checked the orbit and it was heading right over Portland. I went outside at the right time and started looking up. It was a bright blue sky, and sure enough, there it was: A clearly visible craft hurtling along. There was no trail. This time I couldn't contain myself. Looking around I saw a man walking down the street and I shouted at him, "Look up. It's the Space Shuttle!" He just stared at me like I was nuts and left. It's not easy being a Junior Astronaut.

Now I hear them talking with the shuttle crew, and it appears the first Edwards opportunity has crosswind problems. It sounds like they're still trying to land it in either the Cape or White Sands, New Mexico. It's the last chance for Florida today so who knows. I love this stuff. Do you realize along with the computerized information, the astronauts are writing down weather parameters by hand like someone getting directions.

Of course, I just hope it makes it down okay, either today or tomorrow. The weather's not helping. I guess holiday travel is even tough on NASA. But if it lands at Edwards from the south, it's a missed opportunity for us. I want to see it glide over Portland again - maybe on the next flight. Why are you looking at me funny? You don't think you can see the space shuttle over Portland?

Update: The astronauts must want to come back today. When Mission Control gave them an okay to try and land in Florida, the astronaut said, "You're a good man, Hawk." Pretty informal, like the grand old days of the Right Stuff.

Update: Home.


At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool, Bill. How about posting the links for the schedule and the voice communications you mention?

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

It was Channel 22 or 23 on Local Cable Access.


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