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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Incoming! Space Shuttle over South Dakota Monday 7:25-7:35 a.m. CDT!

Update 2010.04.19 06:18 CDT: Nuts! NASA has waved off the Orbit 222 landing attempt, due to precip and clouds in Florida. No shuttle view for us this morning. Back to the raisin bran....

---------original article (which I had far too much fun composing------------

Space Shuttle alert! Discovery is scheduled to land tomorrow (Monday) morning in Florida at 7:48 Central Daylight Time. An unusual flight path will bring the shuttle right across South Dakota! So just after 7 a.m. (6 a.m. Mountain), get outside and look!

Current forecast for Madison, SD: partly cloudy. Come on, clear skies for breakfast! One mapthis map says the shuttle kittywampiflies NW to SE right across South Dakota:

shows the shuttle crossing our state's southwest corner, but
NASA Map: Cities with good view of Discovery
on approach to landing
(click to enlarge!)

I hope Discovery isn't taking bearings from the apparent position of Sioux City on this map. This PDF from NASA insists Discovery will pass directly over Pierre and Sioux City.

Check out those speeds: Mach 20 over Pierre!
Mach 20! Discovery can cover that diagonal route across South Dakota in less than two minutes. On I-90, Mach 20 gets you across South Dakota in 90 seconds. That gets you from Lincoln High School to the Empire Mall in one second.

If Discovery gets a go for landing on its first good window tomorrow, it'll flip, fire engines, and drop into the atmosphere over the Pacific at 7:17 a.m. Central Daylight Time. Montana (Larry! That's you!) will get a good look shortly thereafter. If the sun's not up yet out west, you'll get to see the big plasma trail! Whoosh!

Here in South Dakota, the sun will be up, but we may still get some glow... and sonic booms! So after 7:15 a.m., turn down your snap-crackle-pop and look and listen out the window. Space shuttle a-comin'!

Update 22:50 CDT: Shuttle visibility from Madison, SD: 7:28 to 7:33 a.m.!
  • As viewed from an open field, Discovery will pop over our horizon toward the WNW at 7:28. Of course, at that point it will be 575 miles away.
  • At its nearest point to Madison, 88 miles away at 7:30:38, the shuttle will be close to straight SW, about 26 degrees up frmo the horizon.
  • Discovery drops below Madison's horizon close to straight SE at 7:33.
Get your own detailed sighting data from NASA's spaceflight sightings tracker (and darn good use of tax dollars if ever I saw one!).

Here's the chart for Madison:

Local Time Azimuth Elevation Range
HH:MM:SS Deg E of N Deg Miles
07:28:20 300.2 0.2 575
07:28:20 299.5 1.1 513
07:28:51 298.7 2.2 452
07:29:06 297.5 3.4 391
07:29:22 295.7 4.9 331
07:29:37 293 6.9 273
07:29:52 288.8 9.5 217
07:30:08 281.5 13.5 163
07:30:23 267.1 19.6 117
07:30:38 237 26.8 88
07:30:54 196.1 25.2 92
07:31:09 171 17.7 125
07:31:24 159.1 12.2 171
07:31:40 152.8 8.7 220
07:31:55 149.2 6.3 270
07:32:11 147 4.6 321
07:32:26 145.6 3.2 372
07:32:41 144.7 2.1 421
07:32:57 144.1 1.1 470
07:33:12 143.8 0.3 518

Also at 07:30:38, the shuttle will fly almost directly over Corsica, SD. No need to duck: Discovery's altitude will be about 40 miles. (I checked that with the Pythagorean theorem—sounds about right!)

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