Re: Shuttle theory

From: Jim Scotti (
Date: Thu Feb 06 2003 - 18:06:58 EST

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       My guess would be that no, thruster firings would not leave these kinds of
    small glowing gas spots during reentry.  Remember that this particular
    phenomenon has never been reported before during reentry observations and
    thruster firings appeared as small perturbations in the ionization trail
    rather than persistent bright spots.  This reentry was different and those
    glowing spots moved laterally from the main contrail and also seemed to have
    small contrails behind them too, as if they were actual debris, very much
    like what was seen in the post breakup video of the debris spreading out.
       I'm wondering how long it will be until someone takes the images of the
    debris from the California and Arizona parts of the trail and estimates the
    trajectory of it assuming it is (say) tiles or small parts of the orbiter and
    estimates a footprint of where to expect that item to have landed on the
    ground so that a targeted recovery might be profitable.  I'd guess you could
    narrow down a search to a few tens or maybe 100 square miles - still a tough
    search, but you might be able to limit your targets searches to areas with
    terrain that would be easier to hunt in (like desert scrub brush instead of a
    mountainous area...).
    On Thu, 6 Feb 2003, Dale Ireland wrote:
    > Hello
    > I asked yesterday about the bright flashes seen in previous "in-cockpit"
    > reentry videos. The answer that best matched what I saw is thruster firings.
    > I am wondering if these firing can leave small glowing gas spots visible
    > from the ground during reentry. Today's news from NASA adds to the news that
    > there was increased drag on the left side with the information that
    > thrusters were doing all they could to maintain the spacecraft's attitude.
    > Is it possible that flashes along the reentry track early on the west coast
    > and the small "pieces of debris" seen at that time could have really been
    > unusually long and rapid thruster activity??
    > Dale
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    Jim Scotti
    Lunar & Planetary Laboratory
    University of Arizona
    Tucson, AZ 85721 USA           
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