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<i>Columbia</i> Debris to Arrive at Cape Canaveral on Wednesday - 2003-02-11

More than 12,000 pieces of debris from the space shuttle Columbia will soon be arriving at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The wreckage will be painstakingly examined in hopes of learning what caused the February 1 accident.

It has been 10 days since the space shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas while re-entering earth's atmosphere. Initial probes of the disaster have generated more questions than concrete answers.

U.S. space agency officials hope that will soon change. NASA spokesperson Lisa Malone says the first shipment of shuttle wreckage recovered from Texas and Louisiana will be arriving Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center.

"We have a very big hangar at the shuttle landing facility that we will be using to store the debris of the Columbia. Our experts are here at the Kennedy Space Center. They are very familiar with each component on the space shuttles and would be able to offer assistance to the investigation team."

Ms. Malone says each piece of the Columbia wreckage will be catalogued upon arrival at Cape Canaveral. Then the pieces will be assembled to the best of NASA's ability.

Among the elements expected to receive immediate attention is a chunk of protective paneling from Columbia's left wing as well as a section of the wing itself. Sensors in the wing recorded abnormally high temperatures in the minutes before the shuttle's disintegration.

Some photographs and videotape shot from earth show what looks like a jagged edge along the wing, as well as streaks trailing from the orbiter's left side.