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Shuttle Disaster

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Columbia lifted off at 1039 local time (1539 GMT) on 16 January.

82 seconds into the launch, as the shuttle prepared to increase power to its engines, a 50 cm, 1.13 kg piece of insulating foam was seen to break off from the external fuel tank and strike Columbia's wing.

At the time engineers said the incident was unlikely to have caused any serious damage. But investigators now believe that the foam damaged the wing's reinforced carbon leading edge.


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