Utah Science Experiment from Columbia Recovered

Utah Science Experiment from Columbia Recovered

Save Story
Leer en espaƱol

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- An aluminum box of salt crystals that was part of a science experiment by Utah students survived the Columbia shuttle disaster and was recovered from a parking lot in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Some of the crystals still could produce useful data.

The welded box of tiny salt crystals hit the ground at about 200 mph but was left largely intact, said Robert Mohler, manager of Lockheed Martin's project integration office and a mentor for U.S. schoolchildren. It also endured temperatures over 600 degrees.

"I wasn't surprised the (box) survived, but I was surprised they found it," Mohler said from Houston. "The impact was strong enough that it offset the welds... They had to use a hammer, saw and chisel to get the samples out."

Lockheed Martin officials learned only last week that the salt crystals and other experiments aboard the Columbia were recovered a day after the Feb. 1 tragedy that killed seven astronauts.

The salt crystal box had been placed in a temperature-controlled container in the cargo bay of the shuttle, which disintegrated on its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Investigators are focussing on a damaged wing that may have led to the shuttle's breakup.

In all, four tiny crystals survived that could allow students in Moab, Utah, to complete their experiment. They cultivated their own crystals to compare against those sent aboard the Columbia, and hoped to learn how the lack of gravity affected crystal growth.

"We wanted to find out what it takes to live in space," said Dez Hopkins, a sixth-grader at Helen M. Knight Intermediate School.

In all, nine of 80 experiments carried by Columbia have been found inside metal boxes. Scientists opened the boxes earlier this month at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and believe at least five of the experiments will yield usable data.

The discovery that the crystals survived the shuttle explosion left many Moab students with mixed feelings.

"I was excited when they said they found it," Clinton Day said. "But it would have been better if the people had survived instead of the experiments."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics



Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the KSL.com Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast