Coast to Coast: Ka-BOOM BOOM!

On November 16 I posted video of the STS-129 Shuttle launch.

Less dramatic for most observers is the orbiter landing. No flame, no fury, just a powerless glide to a runway.

The lone exception is when the orbiter breaks the Sound Barrier. The human ear perceives it as a double sonic boom, first the nose and then the tail of the orbiter.

When I lived in California, the orbiter occasionally landed at Edwards Air Force Base. Living 100 miles away, I’d sometimes hear a faint “ka-boom boom” in the distance as the orbiter approached the runway.

Here in north Merritt Island, though, we’re about ten miles from the runway so we’re right in the crosshairs.

Atlantis landed Friday at 9:44 AM EST, and its flight path took it right in front of our house as it flew in from southeast to northwest, then made a barrel turn to come back in for a landing. I tried to film it, but the orbiter was so high it was impossible to find in the view finder. “Look for the falling rock,” was how my friend in the Astronaut Office described it.

I did record the double sonic booms for you to hear. Click here and crank up your computer speakers really loud to get the full effect!

The camcorder is pointed north towards Kennedy Space Center, five miles up the road. The runway is about ten miles slightly to the northwest. The orbiter was moving left to right above the camera frame, too small to locate in the viewfinder. Atlantis glided out over the ocean, made a U-turn around a virtual barrel in the sky, then came in to land from right to left.

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