September 2009
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9/11/09 My view of shuttle Discovery landing

Look for shuttle right of the contrail in my photo.

Look for the shuttle to the right of the contrail in my photo (click on the image for full res version)

Shuttle and ground in one image

Shuttle and ground in one image. This photo and the rest of these photos courtesy of Gary Spiers

Space shuttle Discovery

Space shuttle Discovery

Touchdown - twin dustplumes from gear touching down

Touchdown - twin dustplumes from gear touching down

Parachute deploys

Parachute deploys

NASADryden tweeted at 9:58 a.m. “We’ve been called up to support a potential shuttle landing today, see web for details”

1:35 p.m. “Shuttle will land at Edwards today, deorbit burn scheduled for 4:47 PDT, landing at 5:53 PDT”

With landing scheduled at 5:53 p.m. PDT September 11, 2009 fellow astronomer Gary Spiers and I sped from Pasadena to Edwards Air Force Base to see one of if not possibly the last California landing of a space shuttle. We left Pasadena at 3:15 p.m. for the 2 plus hour drive.

Navigator Gary scoped out the viewing choices while I drove. We passed Palmdale and headed for Rogers Dry Lake. Soon we saw groups of cars off California State Highway 58, and we headed further down the highway for a higher vantage point at the Northeast side of the lake bed. We turned off at the historic 20 Mule Team Road.

I was receiving the Twitter updates from NASA Dryden on my cell phone. We arrived about a half hour before touchdown and setup camera gear in the 102 degree late-afternoon heat.

We picked a perfect viewing spot. The shuttle would pass directly overhead on its loop from the West to runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base. You can see the ground track, including the close range track of orbit 219 here.

Here are the exciting tweets from NASADryden, which I passed along to the folks nearby:

“15 minutes until touchdown, less than 1,000 miles away 5:38 PM Sep 11th

Discovery is less than 700 miles away

Right on ground track, 11 minutes until touchdown. Everything looking good

Less than 277 to go, traveling at 7 times the speed of sound

Approaching the CA coastline

7.5 minutes till touchdown

Discovery is 78 miles from Edwards

Just heard the sonic boom here at Dryden! Discovery will be here soon!

3 minutes till touchdown

All eyes at Dryden are on the runway!

Shuttle Discovery has landed at Edwards AFB, welcome back!

Wheels stopped on Discovery with the National Anthem playing in the background. I love this country and NASA! ”

Gary and I were snapping photos and recording video as honking, applause, whistles and cheers erupted from people inside, and alongside over 125 cars parked on the overpass, offramp shoulder, on and off 20 Mule Team Road.

Soon the big rig drivers and other space enthusiasts were pulling off the shoulder and driving back to their daily life. Next to us Brad and Judy from Visalia lamented the dead battery in their camera as they planned to drive three hours back home. We exchanged email addresses and I’ll be sending them this report, photos and video of our first, and maybe last real-time up-close view of a shuttle landing.

These photos courtesy of Gary Spiers whose images were shot using a Nikon D90 body with a Nikon 300mm F2.8 lens. My video and a few pre-landing snapshots were shot using a Pentax Optio M60 compact camera. Taken from 20 Mule Train Road on the Northeast side of the Rogers Dry Lake at the intersection of California Highway 58 and 20 Mule Team Road on September 11, 2009. We were over 5 miles away from the landing strip, but you can just barely see the dustplumes and parachute deployment at 1 min 42 seconds into my video.

My video of Discovery Landing

My video of Discovery Landing

1 comment to Shuttle Discovery lands at Edwards AFB 9/11/09

  • Love it! Wish I had made the drive out there to see a landing. Well if all goes well, I’ll see Endeavour land next week (even if on piggyback). :)

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