West Coast astronomers´ accounts and home videos of Columbia as it streaked over California are adding up to evidence that the shuttle began to break up well before it reached Texas. Columbia´s sensors showed a sharp rise in temperature as the spacecraft headed over land from the Pacific, and NASA says it may have found a piece of the wing in California.
Shuttle project thermal tile expert Doug Kohl says the shuttle came right over the Sierra. “It would come over the coast of California, somewhere around Santa Cruz,” Kohl said.”It would them head over the Sierra towards Bishop, doing a gradual turn, a right hand turn, if you will, heading over Arizona.´
NASA officials hope to find clues to the earliest moments of the accident in the far West because Columbia´s flight was normal until somewhere more than 200-thousand feet over California. Shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore says any debris found in California, Arizona or New Mexico would be a significant finding and point investigators in a direction.NASA is now calculating where falling debris would land.
No word yet from NASA on the whether a piece of debris found in Groveland is from the shuttle “Columbia.”