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How to Land the Space Shuttle… from Space

Presented on Halloween (October 31st) at Stack Overflow’s 2016 Remote Meetup in Philadelphia.

This was one of nine “Tiny Talks” given over three days at the meetup. Every year, employees submit Tiny Talk ideas on a wide range of topics (some completely random and not company-related at all, like this one) and we vote on which ones we want to hear. So, thank you to my coworkers for voting me in.

Original proposal description I submitted for this talk:

Let’s say you’re traveling at about 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 km/h) in low earth orbit, your main engines are out of fuel, and it’s your job to guide the spaceship through a fiery re-entry without burning up or skipping out of the atmosphere, navigate to your landing site, and arrive with just enough energy to make an unpowered landing on a runway which is halfway around the planet from where you started. And, of course, either you succeed on your first try, or everyone dies. So, no pressure…. In this talk, I’ll show you how space shuttle designers, pilots, and autopilots managed to do just that.

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