Residents of southern California were treated to a pair of sonic booms as the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour passed overhead yesterday en route to its safe landing at Edwards Air Force Base.
Bad weather had forced the crew to divert its destination from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Edwards. The Associated Press reports it will cost about $1.8 million to bring the shuttle back to Florida on of the back of a modified jumbo jet.
"The sonic boom sounded like a nearby explosion, very low and deep. It reminded me of a thunderclap, but shorter and with a softer timbre," screenwriter John Aboud of South Pasadena told ScientificAmerican.com in an e-mail.
"I was in an ice cream shop at the time [near his home]. The windows rattled so much, I thought we were having a small earthquake at first. A man sitting at one of the outdoor tables leapt out of his chair and grabbed hold of his lady friend. He was either genuinely frightened or seizing the opportunity to advance a romantic agenda."
The Endeavour crew was returning from a 16-day mission to double the International Space Station's (ISS) capacity to accommodate six people beginning in May. The expedition experienced few snafus, including a tool bag lost during a spacewalk (which then visibly streaked across the night sky*) and trouble installing the ISS's new urine recycling system.
*Note: corrected 12/9/08
(Photo courtesy of NASA/Tony Landis)