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Debris Photos

Being without cable at the moment, I have had to content myself with following the crash recovery via the internet. In so doing, I’ve found some interesting photos. Keep in mind that my interpretations here are just best guesses based on small photos, and I could be way off on my identifications of the parts the photos show.

The nose section, bagged for removal.

An intact spherical tank, possibly from one of the OMS or RMS units.

A few different pictures of what looks to be an elevon or the body flap.

A strange photo of the liftoff, showing something escaping from the left tail mast enclosure.

What looks like a B-STRA…ironic that the flight was delayed due to cracks in similar B-STRAs in the Orbiter boattails, yet it survived the flight intact (er, more or less).

A touching photo of a mother and daughter, viewing what looks like a fuselage or payload-bay-door frame.

The moment of impact.

What appears to me to be the doorframe of the crew hatch. Note the trace of the crew cabin pressure shell surrounding the frame (the waffle-patterned aluminum skin, which appears to have come apart at the welds).

Most likely a composite-overwrapped spherical tank, though it could be a bloated and frayed tire. Interesting to note that among the wreckage retrieved from Skylab were several spherical tanks and a composite-overwrapped tank which was frayed in a similar fashion.

Something that appears to be the edge of a thick orthogrid plate, which could be a piece of one of the landing gear doors or ET fuel-line disconnect doors.

I have no idea what this is, but from the imprint in the ground I’d imagine that man is very happy he wasn’t any closer than he was. (It may be part of an SSME, but that’s just a wild guess on my part).

This is just…wow.

Judging by the corrugations or waffling, this looks like either a segment of crew cabin pressure shell, or one of the endwalls of the payload bay or forward RCS compartment.

Fires started by the debris.

Possibly a piece of radiator panel or heat exchanger.

A thin shell, that looks like it could have been a part of the payload bay doors or the OMS pods (not really sure though).

A piece of RCC (the grey material from the leading edges and nose). Note the attachment clip on the inside, to the left in the photo (RCC is mechanically attached, not bonded on like the rest of the TPS materials). Judging from the shape, I’d guess it might be a wingtip piece (note how it has a ~1″ lip on the near edge and rolls over on the far edge, suggesting it capped the corner of a leading edge, possibly the right wingtip).

No idea, but possibly another spherical or lenticular tank of some sort.

A still from the weather radar loop (here and http://www.srh.weather.gov/ftproot/columbia/columbia_shv.html) at the time of the crash.

What I referred to earlier as the “smoking gun”, a piece of skin still bearing heavily-eroded tiles and the shadows of the RTV that held them to it. Note on the sinuous far edge how even the shadow fades away, versus the near edges which appear to have been torn. It’s my guess that this came from the (an?) area of burnthrough. Compare this with the condition of the tiles in the pictures of the control surface, above.

A lone tile, which appears to have tumbled a bit, knocking the corners off. This appears to me to be the underside of the tile, with the shadow at the periphery the trace of the RTV bond and the material on the face possibly charred RTV or Nomex. Unless the discoloration on the face indicates depth rather than a residue, in which case the tile may have been eroded on its back face by hot gas intrusion.

What looks like a harddrive.

Hearing the news.

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