Space Shuttle Discovery Passes Over NE Oklahoma
Staff and Wire Reports
UNDATED -- The space shuttle Discovery passed over northeastern Oklahoma Tuesday morning on its way home to Florida.
The sky over the Florida landing strip cleared and NASA gave Discovery's astronauts permission to fire the braking rockets for landing in Florida.
That set up a rare flight path for Discovery, bringing it over the central United States.
A number of News On 6 viewers reported hearing the sonic boom as the shuttle passed over northeastern Oklahoma and a few said they could see it low in the eastern sky.
Several sent us their pictures that they hope show the shuttle.
There has been a lot of discussion about what the pictures show, including a debate over whether the shuttle leaves a contrail after it reenters the earth's atmosphere. It's common for jet-powered aircraft to leave contrails as the hot exhaust from their engines causes condensation (contrail is short for condensation trail), but the shuttle is effectively a glider when it returns to earth.
According to the experts at Space.com, the shuttle does leave a contrail. "A reentering shuttle usually appears as a very bright 'star' leaving a long contrail in its wake," according to the site. The site says a returning shuttle is a spectacular sight at night, but it is visible even in the daylight.
A man named Will in Coweta submitted a picture to pics.newson6.com that he believes shows the shuttle as it passed northeast of his community Tuesday morning.
However, since he was facing the east when he took it, it appears he photographed an airplane heading northeast, not the shuttle which was heading southeast to Florida.
In any case, Discovery landed safely in Florida just after 8 a.m. Oklahoma time on what was its next-to-last flight.