Pin Linked to Shuttle Fuel Leak

CAPE CANAVERAL -- A loose pin shot out of one of space shuttle Columbia's engines moments before liftoff last week and probably caused the ship's hydrogen fuel leak, NASA said yesterday.

The gold-plated, one-inch pin is the chief suspect, but the space agency was continuing its investigation to be certain nothing else was to blame, said Bill Gerstenmaier, a senior shuttle manager.

Columbia leaked hydrogen fuel all the way to orbit a week ago. A larger leak could have caused the damaged engine to shut down and forced an unprecedented emergency landing.

Engineers believe the force of engine ignition 6.5 seconds before liftoff knocked the pin from a tube and down through the combustion chamber of the right main engine. The pin, which was serving as a plug in a damaged oxygen-injection line and resembled a tapered nail, likely slammed against the nozzle.

The pin would not have created the three small holes found in three side-by-side hydrogen-circulating tubes inside the nozzle, Gerstenmaier said. But it would have weakened the stainless steel tubes so much that they could no longer hold pressure and consequently ruptured.

MIT Revokes Diploma for '97 Fatality

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has revoked a graduate's diploma for his involvement in the 1997 death of a student who suffered alcohol poisoning after a fraternity party.

Charles Yoo, 23, a Philadelphia stockbroker, was called back to his alma mater this week for a hearing in which his diploma was rescinded, said his lawyer, who plans to sue the school.

Police said Scott Krueger, 18, died in September 1997 after he was forced to drink huge quantities of liquor as part of a pledge contest at "Animal House Night" at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house. Krueger, of Orchard Park, N.Y., fell into a coma, and died several days later.

Yoo was the pledge trainer at the fraternity, and prosecutors said he gave the freshmen, including Krueger, whiskey and beer he had purchased.

The MIT chapter of the fraternity disbanded after prosecutors indicted it for manslaughter. The case was never prosecuted because no one showed up in court to represent the fraternity house.

Addenda

A shortage of tree-marking paint is reducing logging in federal forests this year by as much as 25 percent in some regions, and foresters are resorting to the old-fashioned way of marking trees to be cut: they're notching trunks with hatchets, the Forest Service said.

CHARLOTTE -- A maintenance worker at a trucking terminal shot and killed a supervisor, then fatally wounded himself. George Edward Moore, 58, let others at Watkins Motor Lines get out of the way before shooting Steve Devon Simpson, 47, police said.