But board member James Hallock, a physicist and chief of the Transportation Department's aviation safety division, said the fragments were probably so small they burned up before reaching the ground.
said that the pieces that came off early did not seem to be very big, judging from the light reflected off them.
"For us to find something that far back along the path, I think it's going to have to be a pretty substantial piece of the shuttle itself," he
added: "That's a lot of area to be looking. ...We have the Grand Canyon area and all of the areas of Southern California, the mountainous area and stuff like this, that even if we could home in on some of these things, it's going to be very difficult to find it.But we sure would like to see it."
In their second news conference in as many weeks, the board members also said that they are not convinced that the debris that hit the left wing shortly after liftoff on Jan. 16 was insulating foam from the external fuel tank.It is possible the debris was actually ice or a much heavier coating material beneath the foam, they said.
said the suspected breach in Columbia's left wing had to have been bigger than a pinhole, in order to allow the superheated gases surrounding the ship to penetrate the hull.
In other news:
- The board said it hopes to hold its first public hearing next week, possibly on Feb. 27, to listen to non-NASA experts who have theories about what destroyed the shuttle.The hearing will be held somewhere in the Houston area.The board has been criticized by some U.S. lawmakers as being too closely tied to NASA
...SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) - Space shuttle Columbia began losing pieces over the California coast well before it disintegrated over Texas, the accident investigation board reported Tuesday, finally confirming what astronomers and amateur skywatchers have been saying from Day One. But board member James Hallock, a physicist and chief of the Transportation Department's aviation safety division, said the fragments were probably so small they burned up before reaching the ground.
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