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  Part of Columbia's left wing found
Updated 11 February 2003, 07.24
Grainy Air Force telescope image of Columbia
Nasa investigators trying to find out what happened to the shuttle Columbia have said they have found a piece of its left wing.

It's an important find because experts think something went wrong with the wing to cause the craft to break up.

Nasa are still not sure where the 46-cm (18-inch) bit of the wing belongs.

Fact File
Shuttle disaster facts
Re-entered atmosphere at 20,000 km/h (12,500 mph)
Disintegrated 65 kilometres (40 miles) above the Earth
Over 12,000 bits of debris scattered over Texas and Louisiana
Reports now being checked of sightings in California and Arizona

But it does have some carbon-carbon tiles on it, the special tough material that covers the leading edge of a wing.

That bit gets the hottest as shuttles re-enter the atmosphere.

Debris, scattered across very large distances, are being collected and pieced together to give Nasa clues to the tragedy.

Investigators are looking at several clues and possibilities to help them find out what happened:

  • The shuttle could have been hit by a piece of space junk or ice
  • The craft could have been hit by a lightening-like electrical phenomenon
  • They are also looking at a small unknown object picked up by military radar on the second day of the mission
  • The object could be debris or ice from waste water dumped by the shuttle
  • Nasa's also looking at a 60 centimetre (2-foot) section of one of a wing and the door of a landing gear compartment
  • Experts are also cleaning up an mage taken by an Air Force telescope minutes before Columbia broke up which shows possible left wing damage.

All seven astronauts died when Columbia broke up on re-entry to Earth's atmosphere on 1 February.

Hear story!Hear story!

More InfoBORDER=0
Sci/TechTimeline: What happened
PicturesIn pix: Space shuttle disaster
Find OutFull Columbia disaster section
VoteVote on people in space


Past StoriesBORDER=0
Was Columbia shuttle hit by space debris?
More revealed about Columbia's last moments
Tears in India and Israel for lost heroes
Space shuttle breaks up on re-entry


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