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Mysterious glowing object struck space shuttle Columbia before disintegration

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The Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter (by John Paczkowski this morning mentioned two articles mentioning a mysterious glowing purple object that appears in an image taken by an amateur astronomer in the SF Bay Area, seven minutes before the shuttle disintegrated. The image is thought to NASA to coincide with the moment sensors first detected heat buildup in the shuttle's wheel wells, which soon led to massive system failure.Now, my take on this.. first of all, this is very, VERY odd. Nothing like this has ever been seen before in an image taken of a space shuttle as it landed.

They think it could be just a bad photograph,
or an upper atmosphere electrical discharge.. but reading the description of the image, in the article, it says the object started out *above* the shuttle, fell below it, and then headed directly for it, caused a bright flash, and then dissipated. NASA says the time the image was taken was roughly consistent with the first signs of trouble when sensors detected a
heat buildup..

So.. was it an electrical discharge? Was it some kind of missile? (probably not.. no known missiles can go that high and fast.. and most would come from the GROUND, not the sky...) Or was it.. *spooky scifi music starts playing*.. the Martians?.. (Nah, probably not.)

One last thought that occured to me: it could be an example of a huge 'ball lightning'.. there have been many examples of this observed in the lower atmosphere (ball lightning *does* exist, I've read, and it's a kind of self-perpetuating plasma ball scientists think is created by high electrical potential in the atmosphere.. and such a ball often drifts along by itself until it encounters an object to discharge on.. they've been known to melt right through windows on their way into houses, and set appliances on fire)..

Possibly, in the upper atmosphere, they could grow to very large proportions, since there's not much up there to discharge them, and it would take them a long time to simple fade away by interacting with non-charged air.. that's a possibility, anyway, now that I consider it.. *shrugs*.. and it would be consistent with this strange object first 'missing' the shuttle, then heading straight for its charged plasma trail..

Just some thoughts on this alarming and strange story.. it may just turn out to be tabloid material, but it could be significant, particularly with the timing..

And finally, it must be said again..the seven who died were among the finest members of the human race, true pioneering heroes who dared to dance among the stars. Ad astra, per aspera.

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sounds like the raygun bush orbital mind control laser system still has a few bugs in it ...

the people who died were people, and no one should have to die like that, but at least they were on their way back from having accomplished their mission so at least they could die with the satisfaction of having done so ...

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