Since the unfortunate demise of the Space Shuttle Columbia on 1 February 2003, there has been much public debate particularly on various internet sites and forums, over the cause of the disaster, despite the release of the official report of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) in August of 2003.
Most of this debate has centered on two main questions.
- Did damage caused by a foam strike on launch cause the disaster?
- Did an electical discharge event now known as "megalightning" occur in the upper atmosphere upon reentry contributing to the demise of the shuttle?
The suggestion of the second of these options was motivated by a curious photograph taken by an amateur astronomer during the orbiter's reentry as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle dated Wednesday 5 February, 2003.
It is not the intention of this paper to offer 'the truth' or a 'better theory' than other commentators, but to compare some of the published materials in the hope of coming to a better understanding thereof.