A data-recovery engineer retrieved information stored on a hard drive that melted, crashed, and burned along with the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.
The recovery of data stored on the drive has allowed NASA researchers to verify theories explaining why ketchup and canned whipped cream have a liquid appearance when they're dispensed and become more firm afterward. The process, called shear thinning, happens when part of the substance (whip cream foam, for example) thins and flows easily as it slides or shears past the rest of the foam.
The crew members who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster had performed experiments to test theories about shear-thinning. They relayed most of their data back to Earth via radio but some of the information from their liquid xenon experiments remained on a hard disk aboard the shuttle.
"Remarkably, the hard drive from the experiment survived the disaster and was found amid the wreckage, and technicians were able to recover the rest of the data," NASA explained on its Web site.
The findings were published in the April issue of Physical Review E, a physics journal.
The data-recovery company, Kroll Ontrack, explained the data recovery process to the Associated Press.
Kroll Ontrack data-recovery engineer Jon Edwards told the AP that the drive had melted before landing with other debris in Texas, but the drive was only half full and since the astronauts had used DOS the data was not scattered. The portion of the drive containing the data was not damaged and Edwards recovered almost all of the data.