[meteorite-list] NASA: Columbia's Trail of Debris May Have Begun In California

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 10:18:25 2004
Message-ID: <200302050036.QAA22835_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Columbia's trail of debris may have begun in California: NASA
February 4, 2003

HOUSTON, Texas - The US space shuttle Columbia may have started disintegrating in
flight earlier than previously thought, with suspected debris from the doomed
spacecraft spotted in western US states California and Arizona, a senior
NASA official said Tuesday.

"We've had reports there are pieces on the ground in California
and Arizona," Michael Kostelnik, an associate administrator of the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration told reporters here.

He said team of experts had been dispatched to various sites in those
states to examine the wreckage but cautioned that it was "not clear what
the material is" at this point.

The move follows media reports that a radio-astronomer from the California
Institute of Technology saw what appeared to be "debris shedding" from
Columbia as it streaked over the state.

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Anthony Beasley, of Caltech's Owens
Valley Radio Observatory, as saying that the shuttle had "a sparkle effect"
as it flew over and that he saw a bright piece separate.

The potential discovery is seen as important for establishing a credible
timeline of the fiery disintegration last Saturday of Columbia and the deaths
of all its seven astronauts, according to space flight experts.

Such a timeline could help engineers pinpoint the problem that that has led
to a sharp rise in temperatures in the spacecraft's left wing and on the left
side of the fuselage and, ultimately, the shuttle's disintegration as it headed
for landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"It would be important to see the material early in the sequence," Kostelnik
Received on Tue 04 Feb 2003 07:36:31 PM PST

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