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NASA Probers Ship Eight Boxes of Documents to Shuttle Panel

From Times Wire Services

NASA investigators on Friday shipped eight boxes of documents to the presidential commission examining the Challenger disaster, all but wrapping up the agency’s 11-week inquiry into the loss of the space shuttle.

“A great deal of the information has been released at public meetings. I’m not sure there are any surprises,” said Hugh Harris, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The documents, from Kennedy Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center, Ala., were flown to Washington for the commission headed by former Secretary of State William P. Rogers. It had set a Friday deadline for the files.

The documents contain reports of research conducted by a task force appointed by the space agency to investigate the Jan. 28 accident that destroyed Challenger and killed all seven people aboard.

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The material is believed to support the theory that the lowest joint of the shuttle’s right booster rocket leaked explosive gases and flame, triggering the fireball.

Meanwhile, Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine reported Friday that enhanced photography of the launch shows that Challenger’s crew cabin was “severed” cleanly from the rest of the shuttle as the ship broke apart.

“There is a consensus developing among NASA engineers and officials who have seen this imagery that the crew may not have been subjected to fatal or debilitating G (gravity) loads and that it is likely some or all of them were conscious and aware of the crisis as the crew module fell for three to four minutes until impact,” it said.

In another development, new videotapes of Challenger’s destruction, released Friday after United Press International and other organizations filed Freedom of Information requests, included horrified cries from ground crews as the shuttle broke apart.

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