Columbia failure

From: J. Forster (
Date: Tue Feb 04 2003 - 19:57:21 PST

>From a friend:

I just finished reading a few stories on the NYT web page, about the
loss of the Space Shuttle. The piece of stuff that was seen (81
seconds into the flight, around the time of greatest acceleration) to
fall from the external tank and to strike the left wing of the
Shuttle is said to have been about one meter square. If the stuff
was just (thermal-insulation) foam, then it would have weighed less
than three pounds and would have been relatively mushy. Thus, it was
judged unlikely to have done significant damage to the Shuttle's

However, it has been pointed out that the stuff was _white_, whereas
the foam insulation of the external tank is orange. Therefore the
stuff was probably ice, not foam. If it were ice, it could have
quite massive and could have done serious harm.

It's easy to imagine a defect in the vapor barrier of the insulation
of the external tank allowing a huge slab of ice to form inside the
foam insulation. Under the high g-loading of launch, a massive chunk
of hard ice could break loose...


This is th best explaination I have heard so far.

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