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Shuttle crew was told about debris

July 1, 2003 at 8:46 AM

WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- The astronauts on Columbia learned debris had hit the shuttle's wing only because someone was worried a reporter would ask a question.

According to NASA records, on Jan. 23, flight director Steve Stich sent a personal e-mail to Columbia's commander, Rick Husband, and pilot, William McCool.

Stich's e-mail says he wanted to notify the crew a piece of foam had fallen off the external fuel tank during launch Jan. 16 and hit the shuttle's left wing.

The event, Stich says in the e-mail, "is not even worth mentioning" except there's a news conference with the crew in a few days. He tells Husband and McCool he wants "to make sure that you are not surprised by it in a question from a reporter."

The e-mail says: "Experts have reviewed the high speed photography, and there is no concern for RCC (reinforced carbon carbon covering the wing's leading edges) or tile damage ... There is absolutely no concern for entry."

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