Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Dodging pockets of thunderstorms from northern Alabama to central Florida this afternoon, a NASA Boeing 747 aircraft returned the space shuttle Atlantis to her home here at the Kennedy Space Center.
The NASA modified Boeing 747's huge complex of tires hit the shuttle landing facility's runway 15 at 6:53 pm EDT this evening.
The shuttle carrier aircraft departed Columbus, AFB in northeastern Mississippi at 4:37 pm EDT, to begin the final leg of Atlantis' journey which began on May 11th with her launch on the Hubble servicing flight 350 miles high in space.
Thunderstorms along the flight path late this afternoon caused the Aeronautical Duo to swerve several times to avoid any possible rain showers from striking the orbiter's thermal skin.
As the pair flew southeast across north Florida, the shuttle carrier aircraft made a right turn at Ormond Beach, Florida - just north of Daytona - and flew south along the space coast at an altitude of 1200 feet. Both children and adults alike gazed skyward along the beaches as chills ran across their sun baked skins, and a feeling of pride and joy filled their hearts as they watched the two streak across the sky.
This journalist loved listening to the launch pad and KSC ground crews asking where the shuttle was and commenting on the way it looked. And, the NASA 911 Boeing 747 captain talking with KSC air control if they could make a fly around once again.
To this journalist, the 747 crew just did not want to land and made three passes over and around the space center. It was as if they were just having too much fun showing off Atlantis following their cross-country flight.
One KSC technician stated while watching the shuttle carrier aircraft making a third fly around of the KSC area that it was "going down to Playalinda beach to see the sights", at 6:49 pm ET.