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  STS-107: Worms survived Columbia's re-entry

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Author Topic:   STS-107: Worms survived Columbia's re-entry

Posts: 355
From: CA.
Registered: Jan 2011

posted 02-04-2013 04:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I hadn't heard this before. It's an interesting bit of scientific information. A live group of 1 millimeter-long roundworms, or nematodes, known as Caenorhabditis elegans, survived the break-up and re-entry of Columbia on STS-107.
When the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated upon re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board, NASA scientists expected that the 80 science experiments aboard the shuttle were destroyed as well.

But in the days after the tragic Columbia shuttle disaster on Feb. 1, 2003, scientists began realizing that wasn't the case. Various salvageable experiments were recovered from the wreckage, including a live group of 1 millimeter-long roundworms, or nematodes, known as Caenorhabditis elegans.

No one expected that the nematodes could survive the intense heat of re-entry, but the C. elegans got lucky, said Nathaniel Szewczyk, a scientist who worked with the nematodes in the aftermath of the crash.

Jay Chladek

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 02-05-2013 10:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've known about this one for years. Columbia's breakup was an interesting case as several items survived the breakup without showing any signs of intense heating as there were elements of the shuttle structure and other items that were recovered intact, including patches that were part of the OFK in one of the mid-deck lockers. I've also seen the flight test recorder up close and personal (it is on display at JSC) and except for the back-side showing some signs of wear, you would NOT know it had survived a hypersonic breakup at over 200,000 feet and an impact with the ground. There is also the digital video tape recovered from the camera Laurel Clark had turned on for the reentry(I believe the camcorder itself was stowed in one of the seatbacks as a remote lipstick camera was being used to record the footage).

The breakup didn't happen instantaneously as some major structures broke apart right away in the tumble while other items stayed together for longer, slowing down as air density increased before breaking apart.

All times are CT (US)

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