BOOM!! BOOM!! Beep Beep Beep Woof Woof Woof

Identified Flying Object: Anthony Cook caught a gipse of the shuttle over Griffin Observatory, LA (©Anthony Cook)

Identified Flying Object: Anthony Cook caught a gipse of the shuttle over Griffin Observatory, LA (©Anthony Cook)

Yesterday, at 5.48pm PDT, I witnessed a shuttle event for the first time. Following the 13-day long STS-128 mission to the International Space Station, shuttle Discovery had to be redirected to land at Edwards Air Force Base, about an hour north of Los Angeles.

Excited, I kept track of the shuttle’s progress as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and made a fast decent toward the Californian coastline. I quickly realized that the shuttle’s flightpath would not only take it over LA, it would be flying straight over my house! (Give or take a few pixels on my laptop screen, that would probably translate to several miles, but hell, it was close enough.)

I knew there might be a good chance that I’d hear the shuttle’s sonic boom as it passed over LA County, but I wanted to see the approaching shuttle too.

Unfortunately, it was one of the few days that there was low cloud patching the sky, so the chances were slim. Either way, I had a good chance of hearing the sonic boom if I got outside and listened very hard. I was told on good authority (by ace Discovery Space correspondent Irene Klotz) I should be able to hear the shock wave about 4 minutes before touchdown.

There was 6 minutes to go, so I ran outside to listen out for the distant thud of Discovery slamming though the atmosphere 14× the speed of sound.

Distant thud? Are you sure about that, Ian?

Although I was prepared to hear a mediocre bang, I wasn’t prepared for what really happened–

BOOM! BOOM!!!

Stupidly, I was balancing on a chair, shading my eyes in the hope of seeing a little dart-shaped shuttle through the clouds… with my laptop under my other arm so I could hear the NASA TV commentary a bit better. Not smart. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard that! I’m amazed I didn’t drop the laptop and fall off the chair, it really was that loud. Almost like a bomb going off.

Once I put the computer down on a more suitable surface, I shouted “Holy crap!” (on Twitter too). I was shaking a little. I heard the neighbours chatting about the noise; a car alarm was sounding and dogs were barking (hence the reference to the funny title, as said by @08HD_DynaSGC). I’d just heard the space shuttle, pass overhead, after spending 13 days orbiting the Earth, docked with the space station.

The enormity of the Shuttle Program struck me really hard, and I felt a little emotional. I hadn’t even seen a shuttle with my own eyes, all I’d heard was its sonic boom. I can only imagine how I’d react if I actually saw a shuttle launch, or a landing. I hope I do, soon, before the remaining six shuttle missions are out…

Image source: Spaceweather.com

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4 responses to “BOOM!! BOOM!! Beep Beep Beep Woof Woof Woof

  1. in 1996, for some reason, the shuttle flew over Sacramento on its way to Edwards. It went over at the very crack of dawn, so I went outside a bit before that, wrapped in a blanket, and lay back on the sidewalk to wait.Soon, in the dark east, a hot pink triangle materialized, and slid quickly overhead. I think it was pink from the heat. It was close enough to see that it was clearly a triangle, and clearly the shuttle, but I could see no details. It moved silently over me, then disappeared into the equally pink sunrise to the east.I wandered back into my apartment, curled up in bed, then as I was drifting off, the BOOM that you experienced rattled my window glass. I jumped out of my skin, and then burst into laughter. It was honest joy. I am a total shuttle-hugger, and that morning made among my most memorable space-related events.

  2. We live in South Louisiana- and the Shuttle flies over us more often than not on its way home to Cape Canaveral. I grew up hearing The DoubleBoom and knowing the landing was going to happen within ten, fifteen minutes afterward.That Day in 2003, I was set to go to work, but was waiting for The Boom.No Boom.Dad immediately knew something was wrong, and we turned on the TV and found out why.Now that I've had that experience, I listen harder and hold my breath longer; and I really miss it when the Landing Pattern doesn't pass over us.

  3. We live in South Louisiana- and the Shuttle flies over us more often than not on its way home to Cape Canaveral. I grew up hearing The DoubleBoom and knowing the landing was going to happen within ten, fifteen minutes afterward.That Day in 2003, I was set to go to work, but was waiting for The Boom.No Boom.Dad immediately knew something was wrong, and we turned on the TV and found out why.Now that I've had that experience, I listen harder and hold my breath longer; and I really miss it when the Landing Pattern doesn't pass over us.

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