Space Shuttle prepares for possible California landing

If you hear a loud, earth shaking explosion Friday or Saturday, have no fear… its probably a sonic boom from the Space Shuttle Atlantis reentering the atmosphere on its descent to the Edwards Air Force Base.

Intermittent summer thunderstorms have already postponed Atlantis scheduled landing today at the Kennedy Space Center, opening up the possibility of a California landing tomorrow or Saturday. New Mexico’s White Sands Space Harbor is the shuttle’s third landing option.

Edwards Air Force Base announced today that they would be opening a viewing area for the potential shuttle landing. Located northeast of Palmdale and Lancaster, the viewing area is approximately a two hour drive from the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. (directions here)

The shuttle’s potential landing times at Edwards are Friday at 12:45 p.m., 2:17 p.m., and 3:53 p.m. The potential landing times for Saturday are 1:03 p.m. and 2:38 p.m.

Have any readers ever attended a space shuttle landing at Edwards – and if so, any tips on what to expect or how to make it a better experience?

…photo by Kenny Miller, used under Creative Commons

4 thoughts on “Space Shuttle prepares for possible California landing”

  1. I went when I was a kid. I remember being in back of my folks Caprice Classic white station wagon with the burgundy interior.

    There were two line, the guards would wave you to the left or the right. They only waves ne of every five or ten cars to the right.

    It seemed like the cool kids got to go to the right.

    We rolled up to the head of the line of hundreds of crs and waited to see which way we’d be waved — left or right. Please be to the right.

    The guard regarded us with slightly more care than a state produce inspector on the Cali/Nevada border, and waved us to the right!


    Or so we thought.

    To the right was just a huge detour to stem some of the flow of traffic. It lead us on a miles long trip through the base that took us to the smae place as the people who went to the left. But it took us much longer to get there.

    So, in short, go to the left if you can.

  2. Damn…I’ll be on my road trip by then. I implore you to go. Back in the day when I was a valley dweller and Edwards was the primarty landing spot for the shuttle it was an easy run up to see it. Hell, I could even see and hear it come in from my apt in Canoga Park so I never missed a one. I concur this is one not to be missed.

  3. I went several times in the early years when Edwards was used on a more regular basis for a landing field. Make sure you have binoculars and a long lens on your camera, since you won’t get real close to the landing zone. The shuttle drops very fast, so you have to be on your toes to watch the whole descent. Most of what you’ll see is when it’s in the air. Very exciting to watch! You’ll hear the classic double sonic boom as it re-enters the atmosphere.

  4. I’ve been to five landings at Edwards.

    The public viewing area is usually on the southeast corner of Edwards dry lake.

    NASA has a page showing ground tracks for each deorbit opportunity here.

    The Orbit 219 track is probably the best for Edwards viewers, as the shuttle will pass almost directly over the public viewing site. And orbit 221 is pretty good, too.

    (Edwards dry lake is the large lumpy blob that the ground track ends on in the close-range ground track maps. The public viewing area is the small inward notch about a third of the way up on the blob’s right side.)

    Orbit 219 would also produce the best boom for the LA area. 218 would boom the Inland Empire, 220 comes inland over Ventura, and 221 might be heard in Ojai.

    Remember, this is the Mojave Desert. It will be dry and hot and there won’t be any shade. Take plenty of water and sunscreen. And it’s probably best to leave dogs at home. The alkali dust of the lakebed is rough on their paws.

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