Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 2 p.m. CST
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
Columbia debris recovery efforts continue today centered in areas of eastern Texas and western Louisiana. So far, more than 1,600 recovered items are at Barksdale Air Force Base, Shreveport, La., the central field collection point from which recovered debris is shipped to the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., to begin vehicle reconstruction activity.
In addition, more than 300 items are at each of the field collection sites in Lufkin, Palestine and San Augustine, Texas, awaiting shipment to Barksdale. A smaller volume is at Carswell Naval Air Station in Fort Worth, Texas. Shipments of debris from Barksdale AFB to KSC are beginning this week. Two truckloads of items departed Louisiana en route to KSC today.
At this time, no confirmed debris has been recovered west of the Fort Worth area. Teams continue to investigate report from 27 states and eight jurisdictions outside of the U.S. Of 179 total reports received from California, 105 have now been closed. Of 162 reports in Arizona, eight have been closed. Of 12 reports in New Mexico, four have been closed.
Search efforts continue as well. To assist those efforts, searchers are using Civil Air Patrol volunteers, airborne radar and other assets. U.S. Navy assets also may be used to search the waters of Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn reservoirs as a result of several eyewitness reports of debris entering those lakes. An effort to search those lakes may continue for several weeks. Civil Air Patrol volunteers also are searching west of the Fort Worth area in regions along Columbia's flight path.
Preliminary identification of some debris reported by the Mishap Investigation Team today included a roughly two-foot square section of an external tank umbilical door, a hydrazine propellant tank and electronics equipment associated with the Ku-band communications system. The Ku-band communications debris was erroneously identified yesterday as one of Columbia's five flight control computers, technically known as General Purpose Computers (GPCs). No GPCs have been identified among recovered items at this time. All identifications of items are preliminary and remain to be confirmed.
On the International Space Station, Expedition Six Commander Ken Bowersox, NASA Science Officer Don Pettit and Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin took time out from unpacking items delivered by a Progress-10 Russian resupply craft for their first news conference since the Columbia accident. The news conference took place about three hours after the Progress' thrusters were used to boost the altitude of the station approximately 6.5 miles to an orbit of 240 x 255 miles.
Bowersox said the crew first heard of the loss of Columbia from Johnson Space Center Director Jefferson Howell, and that the crew is being kept apprised of the status of the investigation into the cause of the accident.
"My first reaction was pure shock, " Bowersox said. "I was numb, and it was hard to believe that what we were experiencing was really happening. And then as reality wore on, we were able to feel some sadness."
Bowersox said Mission Control has reduced the crew's schedule to allow time for grief and reflection, and has provided ample opportunity for communication with families for emotional support.
"We've had time to grieve for our friends, and that was very important. When you're up here this long, you can't just bottle up your emotions and focus all of the time," Bowersox said. "It's important for us to acknowledge that the people on STS-107 were our friends, that we had a connection with them, and that we feel their loss, and each of us had a chance to shed some tears. But now, it's time to move forward and we're doing that slowly."
Bowersox and Pettit said they have told Mission Control they are willing to stay in orbit for a year or more if necessary, and that they would consider the extra time a bonus, not a hardship. They said that if it were decided that a two-person crew should relieve them, that crew would be kept busy maintaining station systems but could still perform useful research.
"There would be time to do some level of research, and by virtue of having people here, you are always doing research on your body itself, looking at the effects of long duration, weightlessness on the human physiology," Pettit said. "So it's important to keep people on station, and by virtue of that, we could continue to collect data and life science data at a data set for 10 or 15 year periods may actually turn out to be one of the more valuable data sets we get."
The Expedition Six crew will conduct additional interviews with ABC, CNN and NBC starting at 9:30 a.m. CST Wednesday. The interviews will be broadcast live on NASA Television.
NASA TV is available on AMC-2, Transponder 9C, vertical polarization at 85 degrees west longitude, 3880 MHz, with audio at 6.8 MHz.
For more information about NASA on the Internet: http://www.nasa.gov