Once again last night, we saw a great fly-over of the International Space Station. We watched it for a full five minutes in our backyard as it first became visible in the southwest, proceeded to fly directly overhead, then finally flew off in the northeast. I first started watching these great flying machines in space back when the space shuttle was still flying and a schedule of their fly-overs was made available, along with the fly-overs of the space station.
I will never forget one very memorable sighting that our whole family witnessed a few years ago, even though I don’t remember which space shuttle mission it was that year. We dined out together that clear night in 2007 at a restaurant on the far western edge of town, where the view was great with few street lights or other viewing obstructions around. We finished our dinner about ten minutes before the scheduled fly-over for that night, so we all went outside to the edge of the parking lot away from the lights and just waited to watch it together. This was the first time that I persuaded my family members to hang out and watch this awesome sight with me, and while I was jokingly accused of losing my mind when they grew impatient to see it after a few minutes, they were quite impressed once it happened.
Right on time, just as the last light of the sun was barely waning in the west, we first saw the space station as it approached from the southwest, and about three minutes later, the space shuttle was seen as it was still in its approach to the space station. The shuttle was still chasing the station to catch up to it after launching the day before in Florida, and it was quite a sight to see as they both flew off to the east, not flying directly over our heads but still very visible to us for several minutes. This was the only time that I ever saw both the shuttle and the station together in a single viewing, and it was one of those rare moments that was so memorable and special. I will always remember seeing it with my family, too, especially when they had to admit that mom really had not lost her mind after all.
It is simple follow the passes of the space station in the area where you live. Just go to this link at NASA and sign up for text message alerts. They are usually sent the morning before an evening flyover later that same day, and of course, your normal text messaging rates will apply. One of these days, I hope to grab a long exposure photograph of this great sight, too.