CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The shuttle astronauts took time early today to describe the vista of Earth from orbit as Challenger swept up the East Coast on the seventh day of its Earth-observation mission.
'Ron, we're coming right by the South Carolina coast. You'd love it,' pilot Jon McBride told fellow astronaut Ron McNair, a South Carolina native, in mission control.
'We've got a great shot of Charleston for you, Ron,' McBride said. 'It's amazing, we've had great shots of everything from New Orleans to Jacksonville to Savannah, Charleston, Raleigh-Durham and we're coming up over (Washington) D.C. right now.
'A great look at Norfolk right now. The Chesapeake Bay bridge tunnel and the Hampton Roads tunnel.'
'Boy, it must really be crystal clear out there this morning,' McNair replied.
Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan gave her description of the view just hours before her venture outside the crew cabin to become the first American woman to walk in space.
'The last pass we had out off the East Coast looking inboard toward the Mississippi River was just spectacular,' she said. 'I'm amazed that with the unaided eye you can see as many city lights as you can. It rivals those nice satellite images that you see.'
McNair asked Sullivan if she could see any fall colors on the trees of the northeast.
'I've noticed that as we go along the St. Lawrence valley that you can see quite a distinct change from highlands to the river valley, but it's not clear that you're really seeing the nice fall colors,' she replied.
The shuttle, speeding along at 17,500 mph, quickly reached Europe.
'For those archeologists who are having a good time sightseeing, we had a beautiful clear pass over the southern part of England and got some good pictures of London.'
'We've heard all about the U.S., I'm sure the rest of the world must be beautiful as well,' McNair said.
'Well Ron, we've just been having a super time.'