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What's it like to land NASA's Space Shuttle? We find out

Martyn Williams | Sept. 20, 2012
We're barrelling down the runway at the Kennedy Space Center at about 300 kilometers per hour, and the Space Shuttle is well to the left of the center line.

I successfully land three times in a row -- and I'm pretty pleased with myself, but Bobko says I had it easy.

"We didn't give you any blown tires, or bad crosswinds, or navigation errors," he says. "And remember, in the real Shuttle there are a million other buttons and switches."

Bobko is every bit the American hero. A colonel in the U.S. Air Force, he was part of the first graduating class of the Air Force Academy and racked up more than 6,600 hours of flight time in aircraft including the F-100 Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief, T-33 Shooting Star and T-38 Talon.

He became an astronaut in 1969 working on the Skylab program, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and the Space Shuttle, where he flew into space three times. He was a pilot on his first flight in 1983 (mission STS-6) and later the mission commander on two 1985 flights (STS-51D and STS-51J).

Now he works at NASA Ames, where he manages the center's simulation laboratories.

On Friday, he'll get one last chance to see the Space Shuttle in the air when it makes a low-level flyover of NASA Ames en-route to Los Angeles, where it will eventually go on show at the California Science Center.

I ask him if he's looking forward to the flyover.

"Yes," he says quickly. "It'll give me goosebumps, and I'll probably cry."

 

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