View of STS-114 Discovery pass to landing at Edwards AFB

From: Jake Rees (
Date: Tue Aug 09 2005 - 09:47:34 EDT

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    I and a neighbor watched the Discovery returning to Earth as it passed high
    overhead Burbank, Calif. to land at Edwards AFB, Calif. at about 5:12 AM
    PDT.  Unlike a normal orbiting pass where I would know exact azimuth and
    elevation by consulting Heavens-Above or running STS Plus, in this case, I
    was uncertain just how high in the sky it would be.  I wasn't even certain
    that we would see anything as I thought it might be in the earth's shadow.
    But I'd look anyhow and maybe we'd see something and/or hear the sonic boom.
    Well, I'm glad we did!  We had been looking towards the northwest guadrant
    thinking it would go across there.  Instead, I noticed a very bright object
    in the southwest at about 45 degrees elev. moving northeasterly.  At first,
    believing that it might be some other bright satellite which just showed up
    by coincidence, that thought evaporated after a few seconds and I knew it
    had to be Discovery.  I watched it with binoculars but could not make out
    any detail, just a very bright object.  As it passed nearly directly
    overhead (perhaps 75 degrees), we were jolted by the very distinct and loud
    double sonic boom.  I'm sure it awakened many people from their blissful
    slumber.  Certainly, many others were aware of what it was since several
    local TV channels were covering the landing on their normal 5AM local news
    programs as well as CNN, etc.  We watched it as it continued
    north-northeasterly gradually diminishing in brightness, going into the
    earth's shadow.  I could still see it very low in the NNW until the view was
    obstructed by a tree.  Then I watched the landing replays and my TV
    recording of this historical landing.
    Jake Rees
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