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You Think You've Really Destroyed That Data? Take A Look At What Got Recovered From Shuttle Columbia

The loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew in 2003 continues to haunt many of us -- and, unexpectedly, has offered a lesson in the persistence of hard disk data.
The loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew in 2003 continues to haunt many of us -- and, unexpectedly, has offered a lesson in the persistence of hard disk data.Check out this story on how, after half a decade, researchers recovered data from a hard disk "destroyed" when the shuttle burned up on re-entry.

The data itself is related to a scientific experiment performed in orbit -- and becomes another, poignant contribution to knowledge made by Columbia's crew.

The data recovery process, detailed here, overcame massive degradation of the drive -- it was described as "melted" -- and was helped by the fact that the drive's operating was DOS, which physically concentrates data rather than scattering it.

What this has to do with all of us on the large scale is to remind us, once more, of just how hard space exploration is, and how dangerous.

What this has to do with us on a small and midsize business level is to remind us, once more, of just how persistent data can be, and how cautious we should be before assuming that the data we want destroyed actually has been.

Now, the heroic and intense data recovery efforts that Kroll Ontrack applied to Columbia's disk drive were exceptional, and highly motivated by more than "just" recovering data thought to be destroyed.

But it's also a safe bet that that hard disk you or your employees dispose of after deleting, erasing and otherwise "destroying" any confidential data it contains won't be anywhere near as difficult to reconstruct as the disk recovered from the doomed shuttle.