Officials from the Iowa State Fair might be glad to know the fairgrounds is visible from space. The Great Wall of China is said to be one of the most distinguishable manmade objects that can be seen from orbit, but Burlington native Jim Kelly, who spent 14 days aloft in July and August says the Discovery crew was able to clearly pick out the fairgrounds in Des Moines. He says at night, it was very evident where the population centers are around the planet as the lights are quite bright.During the daytime, Kelly says agricultural patterns are visible around the world — from the quiltwork pattern of fields in the Midwest to crop circles in drier areas of the globe. Kelly says the last day in orbit was the best for sightseeing. He says the waive-off day was created when Discovery couldn’t land in Florida due to bad weather. The mission tasks were already complete and they had some extra time to stop and take in the view. “We got several hours where we were up looking out the window and watching the Earth and one of the most amazing sights on orbit was the Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights, which we actually at times flew through so you could see it all around us and below us. It was quite impressive.” And for us mere earthlings wanting to look into the night sky, the observatory at Kelly’s old high school in Burlington now bears his name, which the 41-year-old says is both humbling and surreal.
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