The foam that falls off the space shuttle isn’t all that different than the foam you might get from Lowes or Home Depot. It’s light stuff. How the heck could it break the heat shield tiles on the Space Shuttle Columbia?
This is especially surprising when you think of the fact that even if you took a hammer to those tiles, you wouldn’t produce enough force to really damage them. During take-off, the foam was regularly coming loose from the left bipod holding the shuttle to the huge external fuel tank. Because of the aerodynamic qualities of the foam, if you were to drop a foam piece about the size of a suitcase (that’s the size of the chunk that hit Columbia), from that bipod mid launch, then it’d slow down prettty dang fast. When the shuttle hit the foam, it’d hit at about 540mph. Interestingly, if a bolt happened to have come off instead of the foam, it wouldn’t have slowed down fast enough to have done as much damage as the foam. A bolt would have been less of a threat to the wing than that foam because it would have traveled with the shuttle for a little bit, instead of hitting the brakes like the foam did.
Tricky foam. you’re so counter intuitive.