As NASA prepares for
the release of the final report from the Columbia Accident
Investigation Board, new tests show insulation foam on the external
fuel tank can hold water.
The tests were prompted by the investigation into the
Columbia disaster. A piece of foam insulation that
fell off the shuttle's huge external fuel tank is thought to have
ripped a hole in the shuttle's left wing during the January 16th
launch. The gash allowed super hot gases to penetrate the
heat shield during reentry to Earth's atmosphere.
Columbia disintegrated as it blasted through the upper
atmosphere over Texas on February 1st.
Florida Today reports the water tests are important
because foam filled with water or ice would be much heavier than
dry foam and more capable of causing significant damage. NASA
engineers insisted the foam could not absorb moisture. NASA
is working on a solution to the foam problem that must be in place
before another shuttle will be allowed to launch.