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From: TerryMosel@aol.com
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2003 02:32:29 EST
Subject: Columbia video evidence

Hi all,

Here's a transcript of the Press Release on the amateur video footage of the
Coulmbia break-uip as it flew over the USA, courtesy of Leo Enright

"CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., March 17 (UPI) -- Shuttle Columbia was shedding debris
long before sensor malfunctions and unusual flight handling characteristics
indicated the ship and its seven astronauts were in trouble, a video
compiled by NASA and released Monday shows.

Imagery taken by more than a dozen amateur and professional sky-watchers
captured the final minutes of Columbia's flight on Feb. 1 as it bolted like
a shooting star across the dark and clear skies of the western United
States.

A closer inspection, however, reveals at least 16 flashes of light emanating
from the orbiter and interpreted by imaging experts as pieces of debris that
had separated from Columbia and become free-falling objects. Combing through
radar data from air traffic controllers helped investigators hone in on two
pieces of debris in particular, neither of which has yet to be recovered.

Work so far has concentrated on what is thought to be a relatively large but
lightweight piece of debris that probably is buried under snow somewhere in
a remote 5-square-mile area of Nevada.

The video that shows the debris leaving the shuttle was shot with the planet
Venus in the background, giving engineers a concrete reference point in time
and space to correlate with a probably ground position.

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board, which held its second public
hearing on Monday, was advised by an expert on spacecraft re-entry dynamics
to concentrate on finding pieces of debris that came off the shuttle before
its total disintegration over east Texas.

With close to 30,000 pieces of wreckage in hand, near uncertainty about what
broke off when, and few hard facts about the highly dynamic process of
atmospheric re-entry, finding the cause of the Columbia accident cannot be
done simply by reconstructing the ship from its wreckage, said William
Ailor, a spacecraft re-entry and debris expert with The Aerospace Corp.

"It's going to be tough to go back and put the debris together," he said.
"The key is to look for early debris before the major breakup."

Added NASA flight director Paul Hill, who heads a team that compiled the
Columbia re-entry video: "If you go look at (the debris) laying on the
ground there (at Kennedy Space Center), you don't have a spacecraft laying
there, you got a whole lot of nothing."

The brightest object in the video compilation is what NASA is calling Debris
Event 14, which glows for 4.5 to 7.5 seconds before fading from sight.

"We still cannot say exactly what we see coming off," said Hill.

Preliminary findings indicate a structural breach allowed hot plasma to
enter Columbia's left wing, creating a sort of blowtorch that melted the
orbiter from the inside out. Investigators suspect the plasma got inside the
wing from a breach in the left wing and made an exit hole around the wheel
well door.

Although the video compilation has a short gap in coverage, Hill said he
thinks it is likely the shuttle was shedding debris continuously as it flew
over the western United States.

"From California on, you can see pretty much a steady stream of debris
coming off the orbiter," said Hill.

"We continue to be shocked that we ... were dropping debris, clearly had an
external breach in the vehicle and had hot gas somewhere in the left wing
for that significant period of time and the vehicle flew perfectly -- no
indication of what was going on in flight control and virtually no
indication of what was going on in telemetery on the ground," he added. "The
vehicle flew like (a) champ until right up until the breakup."

Copyright 2001-2003 United Press International"

Terry Moseley

Last Revised: 2003 March 18th
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