'Ratty' data from Columbia during final moments key in probe, NASA says

'Ratty' data from Columbia during final moments key in probe, NASA says

Fragmentary telemetry data sent from the space shuttle Columbia to ground-based NASA systems could be critical in reconstructing the doomed vehicle's status in its final seconds of flight, program director Ron Dittemore said yesterday during a press briefing in Houston.

Dittemore said the so-called ratty data would not have been displayed to ground controllers because it failed to conform to the space agency's preset parameters by a factor of 90 percent or higher. But some frames of data that met the parameters by a factor of 50 percent or 60 percent could be useful in reconstructing the chain of events on the spacecraft, he said.

Data flowing from sensors on the Columbia during its final 32 seconds of flight'after data no longer appeared on controllers' screens'would have been captured by ground systems and retained for further analysis, Dittemore said.

NASA investigators will retrieve and sift through the fragmentary data in their quest for clues to the puzzle of how and why the Columbia broke apart just before its anticipated landing, Dittemore said.

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