The head-scratching goes on at NASA. As I predicted, they've ruled out the foam-on-takeoff theory. It happens all the time and this time was no different. The foam is low-density styrene and it blew apart into a vapour when it hit the wing - you could hit someone over the head with a slab of that stuff and they'd hardly feel it. Current investigation now shows the autopilot trying so hard to keep the Shuttle's trajectory correct that it was firing the maneuvering engines as well as running all the flaps and rudder controls. Something definitely was causing drag on the left wing. My pet theory is that the undercarriage door failed - probably the worst-case-scenario was that it was hit by space debris on the way down and failed - came off. Heat started to build up in the wheel well destroying the sensors in there. The pyrotechnic bolts went off when the heat level got too high and deployed the left landing gear. It got burned off but left a stump exposed, causing drag. The lightning strike was probably a sprite or a blue jet that travelled down the debris trail peeling off the left wing and main gear as it failed. I doubt at that point that the lightning made any difference. Ultimately, I suspect the shuttle got sideways and barrel-rolled at Mach 18 thus causing it to come apart.


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