Did exploding tyres bring down Columbia?
By David L. Chandler TWO days before the space shuttle Columbia was destroyed as it re-entered the atmosphere, a NASA engineer warned colleagues of the potentially catastrophic consequences if the spacecraft’s undercarriage bay had been damaged on lift-off. The fierce heat of re-entry could then enter the bay, he said, and cause the craft’s tyres to explode, with devastating damage to the wing. The warning came in an internal memo released by NASA last week after reporters got wind of its existence and started asking questions. Sent by Robert Daugherty, an engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia,