That’s the final word from the Columbia disater investigation team. Insulation foam from the shuttle’s external fuel tank ripped a 16-inch hole in the underside of the vehicle’s left wing. Space.com, as always, has the full story.
It’s nice to see the shuttle Enterprise being of some use after all these years, parts were removed from the Smithsonian to simulate the foam impact.
Among the board’s preliminary recommendations to NASA: improve launch photography, use take spy satellites to check out orbiting spaceships, conduct better testing of wing panels, and devise an inspection and repair plan for astronauts in orbit.
The next shuttle flight (STS-114) is still under review. Rumor has it NASA would like to get this one off the ground before the year is out.