Columbia Disaster: Why did the space shuttle burn up?

By Ron Cowen, 15:49 PM April 15, 2008

The space shuttle Columbia, which tore apart killing all seven of its crew on Feb. 1 just minutes before it was scheduled to land, may have been doomed since its liftoff. That's when an estimated 2.7-pound chunk of insulating foam, perhaps combined with ice, came loose from the main external fuel tank and struck the underside of the shuttle's left wing near the wheel well. The chunk was the largest piece of debris known to have struck a shuttle during launch.

 

Engineers first became aware of t...

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