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Space Shuttle Columbia

NASA to loan Columbia debris for study


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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) -- Debris from space shuttle Columbia will be made available to researchers to help build better hypersonic aircraft and better spacecraft in the future, NASA announced Monday.

The loan program will be similar to another NASA program in which researchers can borrow moon rocks for study.

NASA has not decided whether to permit museums to display pieces of debris, but is open to the concept, said Mike Leinbach, chairman of the Columbia reconstruction team.

Columbia broke apart as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere February 1. All seven crew members were killed in the disaster. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board is probing the cause of the shuttle's disintegration.

Debris from the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 is permanently sealed in a silo at Kennedy Space Center and there are no plans to release it for study.


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