Space shuttle cleared for landing

It's a beautiful day on the Florida coast, and Discovery is cleared for deorbit burn. Everything seems like a go.

A sign along a road at Kennedy Space Center illustrates that something special is afoot at the facility Saturday. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

Update 8:15 a.m. PDT: Discovery has landed. At precisely 11:15 and 19 seconds a.m. EDT Saturday, the space shuttle completed its 5.7 million mile journey by touching down here. Stay tuned for a story and photos.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--"Discovery, you are go for deorbit burn."

With those words, spoken at 9:48 a.m. EDT by someone at mission control in Houston and heard here over a loudspeaker system, we all got the good word that Space Shuttle Discovery, which has been on a two-week mission to the International Space Station, has gotten clearance to land.

This is good news because there's a whole bunch of media gathered here, where I've come on Road Trip 2008, expressly for the purpose of documenting the shuttle's landing. It's safe to say there would have been a lot of grumbling if the landing had been scrubbed, as was certainly a possibility if the weather here had been less than ideal.

But a few scattered clouds aside, it's a beautiful day on the Florida coast, and so unless something radical changes in the next hour and 19 minutes, we're going to get treated to the blur of the shuttle zipping by at high speed on the runway in front of us.

Of course, when it comes to the race to capture images of this momentous event, I am seriously out-gunned by most of my fellow media colleagues here.

I'm a little intimidated by the camera equipment my media colleagues here at Kennedy Space Center have brought. Their giant lenses make my little 70-300m lens seem puny by comparison. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

It's not that I don't have some decent camera equipment, carrying as I am a Nikon D60 digital SLR and a 70-300mm telephoto lens. It's just that this is really good equipment for, say, shooting pictures of players on a field at a baseball game. For a fan.

All around me, though, are camerapeople with truly impressive lenses. Tripods that hold multiple cameras. Heck, one guy pulled his monstrous lens out of a sleeve almost bigger than my backpack.

So, getting some good shots of the shuttle as it rolls by on the runway far in front of us is going to be a challenge. But I'm up to it.

And at precisely 10:10 a.m. EDT, the deorbit burn began, 218 statute miles above the Indian Ocean. The landing is on.

So stay tuned to this space. If all goes well, in a couple hours, I'll be posting about the landing and, fingers crossed, including some nice photos.

Wish me luck.

 

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