Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (www.rpi.edu) have successfully located defects on a space shuttle foam sample by using terahertz radiation (T-rays). Lying within the far-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, T-rays could be used as a nondestructive and effective complement to x-rays or ultrasound in examining the insulating foam that is applied to each space shuttle's fuel tank prior to launch, researchers said. Investigators believe that the Columbia crash in February may have been caused by foam insulation breaking away and striking the left wing of the spacecraft.
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