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Space Shuttle Columbia

NASA: Shuttle tape could provide info

From John Zarrella
CNN Miami Bureau Chief

A shuttle's data box records temperature, vibrations, and strain, among other readings.
A shuttle's data box records temperature, vibrations, and strain, among other readings.

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HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- The recovered tape from the space shuttle Columbia's data recorder could hold important information right up until the final seconds before the shuttle broke up over Texas, NASA officials said Thursday.

The tape has been duplicated and during that process investigators could see "an imprint of something on the tape," said NASA spokesman James Hartsfield.

While that find is encouraging, Hartsfield cautioned that data on the tape could have been corrupted in the shuttle break-up.

The duplicate tape is on its way from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it was made to the Johnson Space Center in Houston where it will be analyzed. NASA officials say it will be Monday before they know if the data on the tape is good and late next week before they begin to understand what the data is telling them.

The data recorder tape contains readings of air pressure and vibration from areas of the shuttle including the wings, fuselage, tail and engines.

The recorder is started and stopped by Mission Control in Houston. Routinely during missions, it is started 12 minutes before launch and stopped about 15 minutes after liftoff, then re-started again during re-entry.

Columbia's recorder was started up for re-entry at 7 a.m. CT on February 1. The shuttle break-up occurred an hour later.

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