Thu, Jun 05, 2003
Damage in Test Much Worse Than Expected
Jeff Franks wrote for Reuters, "A test firing of
insulation foam at a replica space shuttle wing struck with such
power that it shocked witnesses and added force to the theory that
a foam strike led to the breakup of shuttle Columbia, a
member of the board investigating the accident said on
In fact, Scott Hubbard, director of NASA's Ames Research Center
(CA), told reporters, "I thought, 'Oh my god, this is more than I
expected ... this isn't just a light bounce.'"
The test was conducted last week. Another, using the real wing
from Discovery, is scheduled for today (Thursday). Because
the Shuttle wing is less-tough than the mockup used in last week's
test, many are expecting the damage to the real wing to be even
the breakup of Columbia (right) on February 1, that killed
all seven aboard, the favorite theory of the cause of the disaster
has been damage to the heat-shielding oblative tiles, caused by a
strike of a chunk of foam that broke off above the orbiter, from
the main fuel tank. The impact speed was estimated at over 500
Although NASA knew quickly that the foam had hit the shuttle,
this type of incident had happened before, and hadn't caused any
appreciable damage; the breakup, days later, took NASA by surprise.
NASA had apparently never before run a test like last week's.
The Columbia Accident Investigation Board is expected
to submit a final report in July.
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