Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cause and Effect: The Colombia Disaster

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The Columbia shuttle crashed on February 1, 00. Tragically, seven astronauts were killed including the first Israeli astronaut. What caused this catastrophe? Several theories are known; however, none have been proven with un-circumstantial evidence. Two of the most popular theories are the foam theory and the paint thinner theory. The Columbia disaster, a tragedy that took seven lives, has several theories for the cause.


The first theory is the foam theory. When the space shuttle took off, a two foot, two pound piece of foam broke off the rocket and struck the wing. Traveling at 48 miles per hour, the foam exerted much force on the wing. This great amount of force could have caused great structural damages on the wing.


Through most of the mission, the wing gave normal readings and worked up to NASA’s expectations; however, as the shuttle was making its re-entry, the first signs of wing damage were experienced. Temperatures rose greatly in the left wing and left tire. This was due to the great amount of friction that is present when a shuttle passes into the earth’s atmosphere. However, temperatures on the right side of the shuttle weren’t as high as on the left. This may have been caused by the wing being struck by the piece of foam during the shuttle’s take-off. The wing was vulnerable from the heat because of the damage it took early in its mission.


The wing began to malfunction and the shuttle spun out of control. The high speed that the shuttle was traveling at caused it took break apart. Flaming pieces entered the earth’s atmosphere and landed in parts of Texas and Louisiana. Scientists are now performing experiments that deal with foam hitting shuttle wings to determine if the crash could have been caused by a piece of foam hitting the left wing.


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The second theory for the cause of the disaster is the paint thinner theory. Paint thinner was used on the launch tower of the Columbia shuttle. Some of the paint thinner may have dripped off and landed on the left wing. The highly acidic paint thinner caused small holes to appear on the wing.


Then, problems started to occur. When the shuttle was making its re-entry, the friction caused a great amount of heat to enter through holes. The left wing burned from the inside out causing the space craft to spin and then break up. This theory isn’t as likely as the foam theory, however. Nonetheless scientists haven’t counted this theory out yet.


The Columbia disaster was a horrific calamity. However, the disaster may lead to scientific discoveries that will make space travel safer in the future. The Columbia disaster, a catastrophe with several theories, may lead to a safer space exploration program.





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