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Tue, Aug 26, 2003

Foam Tests Contradict NASA Engineers

Insulating Foam Apparently Can Hold Water

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.


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