Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Photograph taken during fatal Columbia mission reveals large cracks in the shuttle's wing.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2003]
Origins: As noted above, a few days after the U.S. space shuttle Columbia broke up upon re-entry to Earth, killing all seven astronauts aboard, the Israeli news service Maariv published a
The picture wasn't a photo of Columbia's wing, however: it was a photo of the front inside edge of the cargo bay, and the "cracks" were simply ordinary seams. The black protrusion (resembling a stovepipe hat of the sort favored by Abraham Lincoln) visible in the right-center portion of the image is one of many lugs that the cargo bay doors clamp onto when closed to ensure a tight seal. A similar lug can be seen in this panoramic photo of the shuttle's cargo bay:
This video pan of the cargo bay provides a better view showing the location of the lug and the structure to which it is attached relative to the rest of the shuttle. Still frames from the video have been misinterpreted as showing a large dent in the shuttle's wing, but the structure is the cargo bay (with the seams mistaken for "cracks" in the original photograph shown clearly), and the "dent" is actually a ripple in the bay's fabric covering:
Last updated: 20 September 2006
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