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Assessment: Additional body parts of the astronauts were found

During the search for the wreckage, several items were discovered in the last two days that can help advance the investigation into the circumstances of the accident. The most significant find is part of the left wing

Fragment of the shuttle Columbia
In the search for the remains of the space shuttle Columbia, more body parts were discovered yesterday in Texas, apparently of the astronauts who perished during the shuttle crash. The human remains that are discovered are transferred to a pathological examination and identification based on DNA tests, teeth and identification marks. So far, NASA has not announced an official identification of the bodies of the astronauts, except for the body of Ilan Ramon.

During the search for the fragments, several items were discovered in the last two days that can help advance the investigation into the circumstances of the accident. The most significant find is part of the left wing, which NASA believes was the cause of the accident. The analysis of the wing fracture will be able to teach the researchers about the possible shedding of insulation tiles and the overheating, which led to the collapse of the shuttle's systems and its disintegration. The researchers now have a fragment measuring about 60 cm from the leading edge of the left wing and another fragment about 45 cm from the center of the wing.

At the same time, NASA began tests of dummy models of the left side of the shuttle, with the aim of examining possible scenarios of physical damage to the left wing and its effect on the integrity of the shuttle. The tests will take place in special wind tunnels at the Johnson Space Base in Houston.

Yesterday, the researchers found a box among the fragments, and at first thought it was one of the shuttle's computers. The discovery of the computer could have been significant, as it could have contained information from the final minutes of the shuttle, after the loss of contact with the ground. However, a further inspection yesterday revealed that it is not a computer but an avionics box, similar to which there were hundreds on the shuttle and which was intended to control the shuttle's trajectory during flight.

In addition, fragments of the landing gear doors were found, an area which is also considered significant for the investigation of the accident due to the increase in temperature recorded in this part of the shuttle before the crash. It is not yet clear whether these are the doors on the left or right side of the shuttle's wheels.

Meanwhile, the three astronauts stationed on the International Space Station announced yesterday that they will agree to extend their stay in space until the resumption of space shuttle flights is possible or another way is found to return them to Earth. At the first press conference since the Columbia crash, members of the International Space Station crew, two Americans and one Russian, who have been in space for 79 days, said that they have no objection to staying in space as long as necessary. "We told the managers that if they need us to stay even a year, no problem," said Kenneth Bursau, commander of the space station. The astronauts were supposed to return to Earth via an American space shuttle, but now it is not at all clear when the shuttle flights will resume. The crew can also return to Earth using a Russian "Soyuz" space vehicle, anchored at the space station for rescue purposes.

At the space station they rang the bell 7 times

The bell of the International Space Station rang seven times last week, in memory of the seven astronauts who perished in the Columbia shuttle disaster, as the station's commander, Kenneth Bursau, said yesterday at the first press conference of the station's staff since the disaster. "At that moment it was very, very quiet on the space station," Borsau said. Borsau also told how they got three

The astronauts on the space station got the news about the loss of Columbia from the monitors on the ground. "The first reaction was shock," he said, adding that since then "we are going through a classic process of mourning."

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