NASA RESEARCH AIRCRAFT SEARCHES COLUMBIA'S PATH FOR DEBRIS
February 26, 2003
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A NASA high-altitude research aircraft flew over portions of the Space Shuttle Columbia's flight path Saturday. NASA's ER-2 used special cameras to search for debris that may have separated from Columbia as it returned to Earth Feb. 1. Columbia disintegrated over the western United States during its descent, and investigators are collecting debris in an effort to determine the cause of the accident.
The ER-2 is similar to U.S. Air Force U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., operates a pair of ER-2s for earth and environmental science missions.
Saturday's seven-hour flight was flown at 40,000 feet over parts of western Texas. Imagery obtained during the flight is being studied to determine if it can show the location of Shuttle debris. To help searchers analyze the imagery, various samples of debris (not from Columbia) were placed on the ER-2's flight path for comparison purposes.
Anyone who finds material, suspected to be from the Shuttle, is urged to avoid contact, because it may be hazardous due to fuel residue. Report possible debris by calling, toll-free: 1-866/446-6603.
Shuttle material may not look like typical aircraft components. Pictures of examples of Shuttle debris may be viewed on the Internet at: http://www.nasa.gov/columbia/home/COL_debris_pix.html
All debris is U.S. government property and may be critical to the investigation of the mishap. Debris from the accident should be left in place and reported to Government authorities. Unauthorized persons found in possession of accident debris will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Photos of the NASA ER-2 aircraft are available, in high resolution suitable for publication, in the Gallery section of the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Web site at: http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/index.html
Information about NASA and the Columbia Accident Investigation Board is available on the Internet at: http://www.nasa.gov
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