NASA has reorganized its support of Shuttle accident related activities to better accommodate the investigation and align more closely with the structure adopted by the independent Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB).
NASA's Mishap Response Team, formed immediately after the Columbia accident as stipulated in contingency plans, completed its short-term response function. NASA accident-related activities supporting the CAIB will transition to a newly formed NASA Accident Investigation Team (NAIT). The NAIT has three subdivisions, which match the major elements of the CAIB.
Randy Stone, deputy director of the Johnson Space Center (JSC), will chair the NAIT. Stone will also manage the subdivision related to flight operations, such as Mission Control, flight planning and crew training functions. Frank Benz, director of engineering at JSC, will manage activities related to engineering and technology, such as debris, imagery and fault tree analyses. Jim Kennedy, deputy director of the Kennedy Space Center, will manage activities related to materials, such as vendors, maintenance, internal processes and program management.
"The Mishap Response Team met for the first time within two hours of the Columbia accident, and its demanding work has been highly efficient, methodical and productive," Stone said. "They have done a tremendous job under extremely difficult circumstances. Now, many of the initial mishap response activities are nearing their close, and it is time for NASA's accident support structure to transition to an organization designed to provide long term investigation support," he said.
Among mishap response activities nearing completion over the next four to six weeks is the organized debris search and recovery effort that has been under way in east Texas. Most of the organized search effort should be completed around May 1, 2003, weather permitting. Other activities coming to a close include NASA's Emergency Operations Center, which assisted in fielding thousands of calls about the accident and received almost 7,000 images from sources external to NASA.
The final Mishap Response Team meeting was held today. The NAIT will convene for the first time Monday, March 24. NASA's Columbia Task Force, directed by Frank Buzzard, will continue to facilitate the interface between the CAIB and NASA support activities.
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