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02.24.03
Monday, Feb. 24, 2003 – 5 p.m. CST
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

Helped by sunny but breezy weekend weather in Texas and Louisiana, ground searchers continued to recover debris believed to be from Space Shuttle Columbia. Among the finds were what was thought to be a main landing gear strut, additional parts of the left wing and a 4- by 6-foot piece of mid-body sidewall.

Other items included what appeared to be a piece of Orbital Maneuvering System tankage and protective heat-resistant tiles.

More than 2,400 ground searchers were in the field Sunday, in 20-member teams based in the Texas towns of Nacogdoches, Hemphill, Palestine and Corsicana. An additional 440 people were training for search activities. Methodical ground grid searches continued to be productive in aiding in the discovery of smaller pieces of shuttle debris.

High winds hampered air and water searches during the weekend. The addition of another Navy team brought the total number of dive teams to eight. Other dive teams represented the Houston and Galveston police departments, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite the wind, searchers were able to recover pieces of tile from Lake Bardwell near Waxahachie, Texas. The effort to consolidate three search coordination field offices (Barksdale AFB, La., the Joint Reserve Base (Carswell Field), Texas, and Hemphill, Texas) into the main facility at Lufkin, Texas, progressed over the weekend.

Investigators searched sites near Caliente, Nev., for what could be a piece of Columbia debris tracked by air traffic control radar during the time of the spacecraft’s Feb. 1 descent over California and Nevada. While some material was recovered in the area, none was confirmed as coming from Columbia.

Similar work to narrow the possible locations of other debris in the U.S. Southwest continued; although, no new areas were identified for further investigation. As of late Monday, no shuttle debris was confirmed west of the Littlefield, Texas. area.

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