According to these articles at CNN and The New York Times, NASA engineers were apparently astonished to discover that a piece of foam damaged a mock-up shuttle wing when fired at the wing at over 500 miles an hour.
“I thought: `Oh, my God! This is something. This isn’t just a light bounce,’ ” recalled the official, G. Scott Hubbard, the director of the Ames Research Center at NASA and also a member of the independent board investigating the disaster.
He invoked the physics equation that describes the amount of kinetic energy in a moving object, saying, “That’s when it came home to me what 1/2mv2 means.”
Okay, I’m a big believer in empirical science, but if they knew that the foam was going that fast, why were they surprised at how much energy it had? These are rocket scientists! Damn.
Update: fixed broken NYTimes link.