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Endeavor Launch Delayed

February 7, 2010

Low cloud ceilings caused NASA to delay the beginning of STS-130 until 4:14 tomorrow morning.  Upset that I didn’t wake up to video of a shuttle launch, I looked at some of the procedures for shuttle launches and landings.

When in orbit, the space shuttle seems to glide gently over the earth.  In fact, it’s in a 17,500 mph perpetual freefall around the planet (this may come as a surprise, but at the shuttle’s altitude, the gravity is 88% as strong as it is at sea level.  All the weightlessness comes from the perpetual falling motion of the shuttle’s orbit, not a lack of gravitational attraction to Earth.  For reals.) 

Anyhow, 17,500 seems like a lot of miles to go in just an hour.  I found the best fact to convey how fast that fucker goes is this: the shuttle lands west to east, usually heading for Florida and slowing down the entire time.  Still, only about 30 minutes elapse between the time it’s over the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the time it’s on the ground.

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