Hard drive recovered from Columbia space shuttle

Researchers have finally published the results of data recovered from a cracked and singed hard drive that fell to Earth in the debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia, which exploded during reentry on February 1, 2003, killing all seven crewmembers.

The hard drive contained data from the CVX-2 (Critical Viscosity of Xenon) experiment, designed to study the way xenon gas flows in microgravity. The findings, published this April in the journal Physical Review E, confirmed that when stirred vigorously, xenon exhibits a sudden change in viscosity known as shear thinning. The same effect allows whipped cream and ketchup to go from flowing smoothly like liquids to holding their shapes like solids.

Although the CVX-2 results may not change anyone’s life, Robert “Bobby” Berg, the lead investigator for CVX-2 and a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., says the publication caps a 20-year research project that has occupied his thoughts daily since 2003. “It was a load off my shoulders to finally get it published,” says the 52-year-old researcher. (link)

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