Space Shuttle Landing – Really Cool Video

In between writing and research debt topics all day long I get a few moments to look at other things. Normally when I’m looking up things like HUD it’s about Housing and Urban Development. This time I got to spend a few minutes on HUD, a heads up display.

As a pilot myself I love things about aviation. But this one was especially cool.

Here is the video of the space shuttle lending from inside the cockpit. You can hear the crew talking.

Here are the notes that came with the video.

  • Dead-stick landing, like landing a ROCK!
  • Awesome for Pilots and non-Pilots alike!
  • Remember – this is a glider!
  • Here’s something that very few would ever see without the computer:
  • Notice that when the video starts the shuttle is in a nose-up altitude. The horizontal lines on each side of the display are pitch and bank reference lines. Also notice the steering dot which the pilot tries to keep centred. As the speed dissipates the nose continues to drop until it is well below the horizon as seen when the runway comes into view.
  • For my flying friends…no explanation needed. For the non-flying friends, the following is information that should help understand what is going on and what to look for.
  • The video is an impressive cockpit view of the landing of a space shuttle at Edwards AFB, CA, on Runway 22 (southwest direction). The view is through the cockpit window with a HUD (Head Up Display; no need to glance down at his instruments) superimposed in front of the window. The HUD allows the astronaut to look out of the space shuttle yet have the relevant information to fly and land in the space shuttle—altitude, speed, on course or not, wings level, etc.
  • The video opens with the space shuttle flying in an easterly direction in preparation to land. There is some light conversation among the crew about a cloud cover—an undercast. You will see the undercast (clouds) at the bottom of the picture, with the atmosphere giving off a faint colour differentiation, and then the darkening shades of blue to dark space.
  • One crewmember is backing up the flying astronaut by reminding him of the next events—important because there is little to no room for error as the space shuttle is a giant glider with no chance to add power or go around.
  • Just short of 3 minutes into the video one crewmember gives the flying astronaut a point when he should start a right turn for the runway. At about 3:10 in the video the astronaut is told he has the ‘needle’ centered referring to being on course. At about 3:46 the astronaut is told he is at the 90—referencing the point in the pattern where he is to make a final 90° turn to line up with the runway.
  • Soon after the astronaut calls “Yeah, we have the runway”, look at the upper right corner of the video to see the runway come into view. (The runway is 16,500 feet of cement—3 miles long.)
  • The height above the runway makes for a steep descent by commercial airline standards—it’s a 19° glide slope. A typical airliner flies a 2.5-3° glide slope. Notice how fast the shuttle passes through altitudes and the high approach speed, 200 knots.
  • At one point the flying astronaut makes the point that the wind is greater than anticipated and he knows that could make a difference in the remaining energy to reach the runway.
  • Wait for the nose wheel to touch. Bump!

It is a great video, right to the end.


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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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See also  2003 Backroads of American Debt – Day 3

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