Space Shuttle Atlantis Returns Wednesday: FOR GOOD!

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is making her final return to earth forever. But, only if the weather allows her to. STS-132 is expected to land along The Space Coast this Wednesday, at about 8:30am Florida time. Unfortunately, the weather may be playing a big role in whether we see Atlantis land along the beaches of Florida or in the desert of California. So, what exactly are the weather requirements for a shuttle landing?

The clouds can be no lower than 8000 feet. Visibility must be at least 5 statute miles. Crosswind no more than 17.3 mph. Headwind no more than 28 mph and/or a tailwind no more than 17 mph. Thunderstorms no closer than 30 nautical miles of the runway and turbulence less than what would be considered “moderate”. Remember, the shuttle is a glider so it only has one chance at making a landing.

As of right now, the forecast for the shuttle landing looks a little “hairy”. The forecast is for mostly cloudy skies, winds as high as 25 mph and a 40% chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms during the morning hours. If it does land in Florida, then this the projected ground track.

So, the next question is to ask, how does the weather look at Edwards Air Force Base for Wednesday morning? Not bad at all. Sunny skies and winds around 10-20 mph. On paper, California looks to be the best landing site, but there is still 36 hours before the shuttle returns to the top of the earths atmosphere. We’ll have to wait and see.

-Damon

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