Using no instruments could you visually navigate your way home from earth orbit?

I was playing with Google Earth and wondered if you were in a manuverable re-entry aircraft if it would be possible to visually navigate your way home from earth orbit using just visually recognizable continental and land form outlines, or if these are too hard to see while (real world) flying to be useful navigational aids.

Depends where you live, though. I live on the Great Lakes, which are so big and distinctively shaped that it would be hard to screw up, unless the weather was really overcast across the entire region.

Pretty sure I could do it. Would be easier to find my childhood home by locating first the Gulf of Mexico, then the Mississippi River, and hanging a left where the ferry used to be. My present home could be found in similar fashion, substituting certain 4 lane highways for the river.

No sweat. North America, then west coast of same, then Gulf of Mexico. Steer a little north and spot the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Head due east, using the San Gabriel Mtns. as a straight edge. Spot Mt San Gorgonio, then plop down at the base of the mountain to the South-Southwest. Then ask somebody. :smiley:

In our neck of the woods, I’d think you’d have a much easier time navigating by freeways once you got low enough. :slight_smile:

That is called IFR (I follow roads) :smiley:

Easy. I live next to a river (at a very noticeable bend) in a city on a easily identifiable stretch of coastline, located on a large island.

Idaho’s Snake River wouldn’t be too hard to spot once I zeroed in on the northwestern United States, which I can easily spot without the aid of a marked map. Once that was in view I could find my way home by using the layout of the mountains and other rivers as guides.

Easy. Mediterranean sea… Eastern edge… locate Haifa Bay and head south along the coast until I hit Tel Aviv.

Surprisingly easy. I not only found my home in NY, but several frequent haunts in France, Singapore, and the west coast of the US. I could go directly from orbit to the only bar in Dijon the serves Guinness without asking for directions once. This is much, much easier then getting there from de Gaulle airport, in which case I normally get lost 857 times.

Hmm… I couldn’t do it where I live now, but I could come pretty close to where I used to live. The Kitsap Peninsula is a pretty distinctive chunk o’ turf, and I’d pretty much just have to aim for the center. :slight_smile:

Sure why would this be hard? I mean from orbit it becomes VERY easy to see the state lines drawn out.


Finding home wouldn’t be a problem. But with the no instruments thing… I’m pretty sure most people would stall. Instant cremation.

Easy. Look for the Delmarva Peninsula & Chesapeake Bay, head up the Potomac to DC, and then take the interstates from there. That covers that section of the East Coast for anyone who knows the roads. I’ve fooled around enough with maps. Lately I’ve been adding some things to Wikimapia.

I just did it on Wikimapia. My driveway has trees over it, so I landed in my neighbor’s tennis court. Killed his dog, though.

Another good thing about living in Las Vegas is that there ain’t a whole lot nearby to confuse you, even from the vantage point of space. Plus, if it were at night, supposedly the light from the Luxor hotel that is shooting up into the sky is a pretty good beacon that can be seen by astronauts.

Of course, my luck there will be these huge, floating, orange cones forcing me to take a detour due to construction in the lower atmosphere and I would be forced to land in Butte, Montana.

Using current technology for entry I would say no one could do it. When you do your reentry burn you are not in sight of your home but on the other side of the world, you have a small window you have to get right to land where you have to, and the only energy source you have is your velocity (kenetic) and height (potential), ok and some manuvering thrusters, but that is not enough to gain energy, just to orentate the craft.

Yep, pretty easy. Find the UK, Thames Estuary, fly up the river till I get to Westminster, hang a right over St James Park and Hyde Park, pick up the Edgeware Road and fly up it till I can see the new Wembley Stadium (which you can pretty much see from orbit anyway) and there I am.

Let’s see… find the eastern edge of the Mediterranian, look for the distinctive shape of Haifa Bay about 2/3 of the way down, Follow the coast until I see Jaffa sticking out into the see, catch the 42 bus to Allenby and then it’s a 15 minute walk home.

I could for sure do it, but on thinking it over, there is one part of the trip I would have a little trouble with, surprisingly.

Finding my part of Florida would be a cinch. With a little more effort, I could find my town. But then it would get more difficult. As I cruised through about 2000-3000 feet, it would be very difficult to find my street.

I’ve flown almost over my area, and close to my house, even, on takeoff and landing in commercial planes and in light planes. And, the, uh…topography looks so different from what I know at ground level. It’s very difficult to identify my home area. Everything looks different from the air.

But I could get there by finding a landmark and then just following the right road.

Last stage, finding my actual house, would be easy.

I could do it, no question.

Assuming good visibility - if there are thunderstorms over home or my local area is socked in with fog, no.

Also assuming, of course, a much more advanced re-entry vehicle than currently exists, one that would allow much more manuvering than what we currently have.