Feature

Shuttle theory tested

The week's news at a glance.

San Antonio

The board investigating the loss of the space shuttle Columbia has come one step closer to figuring out why the craft broke apart, officials said this week. Scientists fired a chunk of foam insulation into a shuttle wing panel to see whether debris that broke away and hit Columbia’s left wing on liftoff could have caused a fatal crack. The one-pound piece of foam was shot out of a cannon at 525 mph, and left a crack a tenth of an inch wide. The test bolstered the theory that superheated gases got into the wing and incinerated it. “You would not take a piece that is this damaged into space,” said Scott Hubbard, a NASA executive. The board will conduct more tests, and issue a report in July.

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