Here is a video reconstruction of the final minutes of Columbia's descent:
Saturday, January 3, 2009
NASA Says "Lethal Trauma" Killed Columbia Astronauts - Duh
A new report issued by NASA just before the New Year reveals that the Columbia astronauts died from either a depressurization of the main cabin or a lethal trauma caused by being tossed around the cabin during Columbia's chaotic descent and break-up nearly 7 years ago. The report really just confirms the obvious, and seems to have been released mainly for public relations purposes ahead of the new Orion space capsule. NASA seems focused on letting the public know that lessons have been learned from the Columbia disaster, and that future vehicles will be safer.
A piece of "environmentally friendly" foam breaking off the external fuel tank and striking the leading edge of the shuttle's left wing is the suspected cause of the destruction of Columbia during re-entry.
Still not officially addressed or explained is the mysterious purple streak photographed by an anonymous astronomer (or astronomy buff) as the spacecraft re-entered over California.