Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Most Memorable Day: Some First-Hand Accounts of Sightings of the Shuttle Discovery and Its Carrier Aircraft during the Area Fly-By, April 17, 2012

(I don't have credits for these incredible pictures. They were shared around on Facebook and I copied them to my desktop without noting where they came from. I should have been more careful with the provenance of  the images. If you took any or all of these pix, please comment and let me know and I will be glad to credit your work!)
Norm Modlin (Norm is an Air Force meteorologist and one of my go-to guys for all matters aerospatial.)
(Norm's FB posts)
 Shuttle spotting with Lilah Gaulden Modlin at Target parking lot, Lee Road/Hwy 50, Chantilly. Checked spaceflightnow.com and they said there's no real time flight tracking today.
Initial flyby just went over ~5 minutes ago. Must be headed for DC now. I hope these winds don't cause a change in flight plans.
Second flyby...circling again...I think they're lining up for runway 30.
WOO HOO!!! Flaps & gear down this time....nice approach....mad flying skills in what has to be a significant crosswind. Kudos to the crew of NAS
Terri Wiseman, retired educator and Manassas Chorale member from Manassas:

I was at the Manassas Battlefield picnic area with six other educators waiting for our students to arrive for the Watershed activities. It was awesome to witness! We were just sorry we didn't have busloads of kids with us.

Lisa Hope Lucia Vierra-Moore, teacher and one of my best students ever:

 I was in my classroom. At first it was no bigger than a fleck, then all a sudden it was, well, bigger. Nearly the size of a wadded piece of paper. I was stunned, amazed by how quickly it soared past me just glancing off my brow. Nearly weightless in its flight. Oh, perhaps it was just a wad of paper after all.

Amy Verner, fourth grade teacher, Manassas Chorale member, and esteemed elder daughter:

It came right over school. The kids literally ran outside and then were waving and cheering and pointing.

Gretchen Day, columnist for the News and Messenger: (I also talked to Gretchen about the event when we met up with her at a restaurant late last week.  This is an excerpt from her column this week.)

Discovery Makes Trip over County
I hope many of you got to view the space shuttle Discovery on Tuesday as it made its trip through Prince William County on the way to its new home near Dulles Airport. I was driving down Wellington Road, on my way to the Senior Center, when I looked up and saw it soaring right over my head. Several cars (mine among them) pulled over to watch as it circled and made a second pass.

I have to admit it brought tears to my eyes as I watched it flying low enough that I could clearly read the writing on the side. The wonderful sight definitely “made my day!”

It got me thinking of all the things that our manned space program is respon­sible for— first among them being the microwave oven. I can’t imagine not having that in the place of honor in my kitchen! AND, what would children do without the hook and loop closings on their shoes, jackets and sweaters? Just think of all the ways we use them, and the many other products that are results of this space program.

At a meeting I attended Tuesday evening, the first thing we did was go around the circle and each one shared their stories of where they were and what they were doing when they saw Discovery on its final journey. One participant sadly said, “I didn’t think to look to see if I could see it outside, I just watched it on TV.”

Sherri Craun Katoen, former student (also one of the best) and Manassas Chorale member:

I was inside my jury deliberation room getting ready to go into the courtroom for the jury I'm on. A few of us were looking out the window and noticed people in the apartments on their balconies. Someone saw it first and then we all saw it. It was amazing...and gave me goosebumps to see it. Court began at 10 and we were happy the shuttle was early so we could see it. The funny thing is the judge mentioned that while he was in his car he saw it. We were all thinking, you were in your car at 9:50 and court begins at 10??? Ha ha!

Win Lightner, Manassas resident and Manassas Chorale member:

We live within the flight pattern of planes heading into Dulles. I was watching it on the news and heard a plane going overhead and ran outside to see the shuttle flying overhead...way cool. Just bummed that I didn't think fast enough to have my camera ready!!! It will be an image I won't soon forget!!

Leigh Giza, Gainesville resident, librarian and poet:
Most exciting event I've experienced in a long time -- seeing the Space Shuttle Discovery flying overhead, tethered to a jet, as I drove east on Route 66 this morning. Amazing! Whoever said the suburbs were boring was wrong -- well, at least for today. :-) 

And my immediate reactions, as posted to Facebook, as I had given up trying to see it and was parked at Walgreens and about to go inside:

WOW Shuttle just went over me about 1000 feet up Amazing!

More detail on the shuttle sighting. I had been trying various places in town to try to see it. The radio reported its whereabouts and I was looking at a news feed parked in the Bloom lot on Route 28 which runs north to the airport. Aircraft normally let down into Dulles along this road about 3000-5000 feet up. From what I saw on the NASA television feed it looked like the assemblage was coming from the north rather than from the south where I was. I went over to the Walgreens parking lot and was facing Route 28 and about to give up and go into the store. I looked up and there it was, right through my windshield, about 1000 feet up. So amazing! I grabbed my camera and jumped out of the car to take a picture and my camera batteries failed at that moment. Argh. But the whole 747/shuttle combo slid by so quietly and smoothly. It was a beautiful sight. People in cars along 28 were paying no attention to what was going by over their heads. Further up 28, I would bet people were running into each other and off the road when they saw it!

Cindy Brookshire, Manassas resident, writer and force majure behind the Write by the Rails Writers’ Group:

I was working in my windowless office, when Curtis called and said, “Go outside now, the Shuttle’s flying over!”  I ran out just in time to see it circle, perched on the back of a 747.  It was thrilling; yet sad.  My first husband, Martin, if he was still alive, would have camped out at Dulles with kids, camera and binoculars to catch sight of it.  After all, his father Willis had photographed the original Mercury astronauts when he worked at NASA Langley in the 1960s.  Martin grew up with an eye to the heavens.  I stood alone by the crepe myrtles, losing sight of an era, the hum of distant engines fading away.

And some who missed it…

Patty Reed, hardware lady par excellence at J.E. Rice’s Hardware and inveterate reader:
I drove to work unaware of the news. I did receive a picture text message of the shuttle and had no idea what it was. I found out on TV 30 minutes later. D'oh!

Jennifer Blanchard, mom and Chorale member:

I missed seeing the shuttle - I was watching my daughter's first dance recital instead.  A different kind of once-in-a-lifetime event!

Kathy Smaltz, Manassas resident and high school teacher: Sadly, I missed it. It flew right over our high school (and I was off for lunch) but I didn't realize it until after!  My husband and oldest son got to see it though!

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