CAPE CANAVERAL (AP)- On Thursday night, Nature and NASA will collaborate in a painting that will use the skies over the Eastern seaboard as a cosmic canvas. The materials are a nearly full moon, the stars and a streaking space shuttle.
There are countless engineering and safety calculations behind Thursday’s scheduled 9:35 p.m. blastoff, the first night launch in four years. But once the shuttle Discovery’s three main engines light, it’s all about the wow factor.
Take it from former astronaut Jay Apt.
“In some ways it’s sort of like an eclipse in reverse,” Apt said. “It turns night into day. The birds wake up – not just because of the sound. You feel the heat wave.”
The shuttle launches in a northeasterly directly from Cape Canaveral, a bit east of the U.S. coastline, shutting its engines off and reaching orbit due east of northern Maine or Newfoundland, according to NASA. Depending on weather and lighting conditions, residents of the U.S. East Coast should be able to see some of the shuttle’s fiery streak.