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Space shuttle crashes in Alabama

It was on a train at the time

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A train carrying the solid rocket boosters used on space shuttles has crashed in Alabama, injuring six people. The accident happened when a bridge collapsed over boggy ground, according to reports. One of the people is reported to have been critically hurt.

The twin boosters, which are 150 feet tall when fully assembled, were being transported in pieces. A total of eight propellant segments were on the train, which had no other people or cargo on board.

The boosters do their work during takeoff and the early part of the shuttle's ascent. They are jettisoned when empty, then recovered from the sea, tarted up, and used again.

It is not clear if the parts on the train had already been reconditioned, but NASA says the incident will not delay any forthcoming launches.

The train derailed in a remote area, about 110 miles away from Birmingham. Officials say the isolation of the location is fortunate, since it means there is unlikely to be any threat to public safety.

The crash seems to have happened when a recently repaired bridge gave way. Mike Rudolphi, a spokesman from the boosters' manufacturer, told reporters: "It appears when the train got onto the trestle, the trestle just gave way and sank to the ground. It's going to be a challenge to get it out of there."

Four of the 16 cars on the train turned over when they came off the tracks. The others remained upright, Rudolphi said, because the collapsed bridge had sunk into the ground evenly. ®

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