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Atlantis' Final Reentry Over Cancun, Mexico

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the going-out-with-a-flourish dept.


astroengine writes "Once again, videographer Noe Castillo has captured space shuttle history through his camera lens. On June 1, 2011, he witnessed the final reentry of space shuttle Endeavour. Now he's released a video via his YouTube account showing the final reentry of Atlantis... and the final reentry of any space shuttle." Many other cameras were trained on Atlantis yesterday, including one from the ISS, which captured the re-entry from the other side. Thierry Legault caught Atlantis transiting the sun for the last time, and NASA has pictures and video of the landing.

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Another angle (3, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 3 years ago | (#36849428)

I was at the landing and got another angle here: []

Re:Another angle (1)

Jon Abbott (723) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851770)

Thanks for posting your photo (and for including the EXIF data). I was curious what kind of camera settings were needed to achieve a successful night shot of the shuttle. I also looked at NASA's Atlantis landing photos from Chad Baumer but his photos did not include any camera settings in EXIF.

I'm surprised you were able to get such a good shot at 1/20s -- were you using Mode-2/panning IS with your 70-200? Also, were you shooting handheld or with a tripod? If you were shooting with a tripod, what type of head did you use for smooth panning? Last but not least, were you able to successfully use AF in such low light or did you have to set manual focus beforehand? I sometimes shoot in low light with a T2i and 50mm f/1.4 USM but it often hunts for AF (even if using only the center point for AF).

BTW, we spoke briefly last year about Speed Week/World of Speed. I'm not sure if I'll make it to either this year but I'll certainly drop you a line if I'm headed that way.

Re:Another angle (1)

BWJones (18351) | more than 3 years ago | (#36852010)

Yeah, I was panning in mode 2 on the lens, handheld with autofocus which is actually pretty good on the 1DMkIV.

Chad was closer with a faster, fixed focal length lens which let him use a lower ISO. The NASA guys get up close leaving the media folks and others far away.

Yes, indeed. Do let me know if you come out for Speed Week.

Re:Another angle (1)

Jon Abbott (723) | more than 3 years ago | (#36852778)

Good to know, thanks. One of my fondest memories of Atlantis was after it had undocked from the ISS during STS-129 (November 25, 2009). I just happened to step outside at the right moment to see both bright white dots moving across the sky next to each other.

Sonic booms (3, Interesting)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 3 years ago | (#36849666)

The video link jumps to about 9 minutes in, just before touchdown. Suggest viewers jump back to about the 6:00 minute mark, the announcer says they're 3 minutes from touchdown and then you hear the twin sonic booms indicating Atlantis has gone subsonic. They're incredibly sharp and clear-sounding in this video, even through my laptop speakers, and reverberate like canon blasts for several seconds.

Re:Sonic booms (3, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 3 years ago | (#36849750)

Those sonic booms were the loudest, sharpest and most clear of any I've ever heard in my life. This is due to the Shuttle being so big and having 1) a large vertical stabilizer (sonic boom) and 2) large wing surfaces (sonic boom). There is apparently a 3rd sonic boom that is sandwiched in there somewhere, but its difficult to distinguish.

Re:Sonic booms (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850400)

sonic booms indicating Atlantis has gone subsonic.

Do they? AIU, the sonic boom is generated as long as the aircraft is supersonic. So the booms recorded on the video merely indicate that Atlantis was supersonic at some point close enough to the camera. The point where speed drops below Mach 1 cannot be determined from that.

Re:Sonic booms (1)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850972)

I never said that was the exact moment it actually went subsonic. By the time we hear it of course the shuttle has already been subsonic for probably a minute or two, but it does "announce" (that's the word the commentators often use) that it happened, because the sound waves from the boom are now moving ahead of the flightpath faster than the shuttle itself.

I prefer not to get too pedantic over it, it's like arguing whether a stellar event is happening "now" just because its light took awhile to get here.

Re:Sonic booms (1)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850428)

They are indeed very sharp and clear in the video, almost like two gun shots in rapid fire. But my lay understanding about sonic booms, the announcer's narrative notwithstanding, is that they do not accompany the transition from super- to sub-sonic flight, but rather, accompany essentially all super-sonic flight, and exactly when you hear the boom depends on your geometrical relation to the aircraft, its speed, altitude, etc. See the Wikipedia entry: []

Re:Sonic booms (1)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851076)

Yes, but please my reply above--it still marks the moment (though a minute or two in the past, by the time we hear it) that it's gone subsonic because the sound from the booms are, from that moment on, travelling faster than the shuttle toward the landing area.

Re:Sonic booms (1)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#36854064)

Only if the recording microphone happened to be in exactly the right spot. Otherwise, it's entirely unrelated to the boom. Sonic booms don't happen when aircraft are moving sub-sonically, so without additional information about the exact location of the microphone and careful crafting of its position relative to the aircraft, it's far safer to assume that the aircraft is still flying super-sonic if you hear a boom. To state that it marks the transition from super-sonic to sub-sonic travel is misleading because the only time that will be the case is when the microphones are situated in extraordinary locations that mark the point on the earth where the very last part of the shock wave cone impacts: 0.5 km earlier on the flight path, there will still be a boom, but it will not mark the transition; same is true for 1 km earlier, and 2 km earlier, etc; 0.5 km later on the flight path, there will be no boom.

As far as I understand, when you hear a boom, it does not mark the transition between flight modes, rather, it marks one point along the potentially very long portion of super-sonic flight.

Re:Sonic booms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36855164)

Let me make this very clear and simple.
It does not mark any moment.
Sonic booms are continuously generated during supersonic flight.

It has nothing to with the transition. Capish?

Spatial orientation (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36849674)

The video shot by Castillo highlights a problem that occurs when you shoot video with the sky as its background, or in the dark: you have no reference frame for the movement of the camera, so it becomes difficult to judge what you're seeing. Case in point: in this video, the camera zooms in and then pans along the flightpath, making it look like the Shuttle changes speed.

The same problem happens in e.g. video of an airplane doing aerobatics: you can't separate the movement of the airplane from the movement of the camera.

I used to play flight simulator games, and these showed that there's a simple solution to this problem: show azimuth and elevation markings along the edges of the screen; this makes it easy to see that the camera is moving. With today's accelerometers, it should be possible to add this functionality to a camera...

Re:Spatial orientation (2)

city (1189205) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850040)

Good news is there's plenty of time to get this product to market in time for the next shuttle launch!

An icon (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36849776)

As poorly conceived and designed as the shuttle was, it nevertheless stands as an icon and symbol for a generation. I doubt there will be, in the near future, anything that so eminently symbolizes the drive for humans to expand beyond the limits of our own environment, nor anything that can so easily capture the imagination. A spaceplane might be a bad idea in practice: but as a symbol, it is pretty well unbeatable. When people think of spaceflight, they don't think of Saturn rockets or the Apollo landers, although maybe they should. They think of the Shuttle orbiter and its massive fuel tank and rocket boosters. I think this image will be the greatest (only?) loss that the retirement of the Shuttle brings. But for that, shutting the program down is a great sign of potential progress.

Re:An icon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850514)

I think a lot of that depends on how old you are. For people born in the mid/late 70's and later, you're right - the Shuttle represents man in space. I was born in the late 60's, so the Apollo missions are still what I picture when talking about manned spaceflight. For folks a little older than me, the Mercury missions are what symbolize space travel - that was the first time Americans went into space (X-15 pilots notwithstanding), and that's when space flight entered their consciousness.

Re:An icon (1)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851130)

They think of the Shuttle orbiter and its massive fuel tank and rocket boosters

In the early '80s (1983?), space shuttle Enterprise made a visit to Europe on the back of a 747. I was around 10 at the time and went with my parents to the beach where it flew along the coast of The Netherlands. Although I clearly remember the shuttle's first space flight from tv, it's the image of the shuttle on the jumbo what's made the biggest impression on me.

However, the Saturn V rocket is the symbol of spaceflight to me, because of Apollo 11 of course but also because the shuttle looks so much like a plane.

howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow a misnomer (1)

md65536 (670240) | more than 3 years ago | (#36849948) [] is currently still showing 10 people in space.

Maybe they should register

Re:howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow a misnomer (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850848)

Presumably it will be a long time before that thing reaches 10 again. you figure 6 people in ISS and a possible 3 on a Soyuz.

Re:howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow a misnomer (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 3 years ago | (#36852496)

For some values of "long time". Supposedly SpaceX is going to have the Dragon ready in 2014. Same crew capacity as the shuttle.

Re:howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow a misnomer (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#36860432)

Wow I didn't know Dragon would be putting 7 up at a time. I had assumed it would be 3. That is going to be pretty damn awesome.

What was the explosion looking thingy? (1)

euroq (1818100) | more than 3 years ago | (#36852998)

What is the circular explosion looking thing that happens around 2:20-2:25?

Re:What was the explosion looking thingy? (1)

The Bad Astronomer (563217) | more than 3 years ago | (#36854232)

The camera lost focus so the dot of the Orbiter got big and fuzzy for a second.

Re-entry in 3D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36854212)

Nathanial Burton-Bradford created a 3D red/cyan anaglyph which I posted and explained on my blog [] (if you pardon the blog spam; here's the direct link to his image [] w/o an explanation).

Re:Re-entry in 3D (1)

The Bad Astronomer (563217) | more than 3 years ago | (#36854218)

Dagnabbit. I should've logged in first. :) That's my post, and I meant to say it is an anaglyph of the amazing re-entry plume image seen from the space station.

Re:Re-entry in 3D (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 3 years ago | (#36875058)

Thank you for signing the post, until I saw that I was afraid to click.

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