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May 7, 2003

John Ira Petty
Johnson Space Center, TX
(281) 483-5111

Release: #J03-35

Columbia Recovery Office Up and Running at JSC

The Columbia Recovery Office (CRO) has been established at Johnson Space Center in Houston to continue coordination of shuttle debris recovery efforts. The CRO has assumed the responsibilities of the Disaster Field Office (DFO) in Lufkin, Texas.

The DFO has been operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That office will close on May 10. FEMA turned over responsibility for future recovery operations to NASA on April 30.

“Our purpose is to follow on from the field activities,” said Dave Whittle, chairman of the NASA Mishap Investigation Team and head of the CRO. “We need a way to respond to calls that continue to report debris. Also, we are managing some searches to the west – in New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah.”

The CRO is adjacent to Johnson Space Center’s Emergency Operations Center, a 24-hour-a-day operation. Calls to the toll free Columbia Shuttle Material number, (866) 446-6603, will be answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Information will be forwarded to the CRO where one of the half-dozen staffers who work business hours will take the report. They might send a responder, perhaps firefighters or local law enforcement officials, to look at the object and perhaps request electronic photos be sent to the CRO.

The office can arrange for larger or potentially hazardous shuttle debris to be picked up. The CRO might ask finders to overnight smaller, non-hazardous objects to the office.

The CRO opened its doors April 28. It was a parallel operation with Lufkin for the first three days. It will remain in operation as long as call volume warrants.

Whittle has been involved in debris recovery since the day of the accident, often, like colleagues, working seven-day weeks and 12- to 14-hour days. He said the operation of multiple agencies and communities in the recovery effort can be used as a model for any future large effort involving numerous entities.

“The recovery effort has been unbelievable. It has been the largest recovery effort ever attempted in this country, involving over 200 federal, state and local agencies,” Whittle said. “It has become the example of how all those agencies can work together to a single purpose.”

The transition from a Lufkin-based operation to JSC went very smoothly, he said. “The CRO is our way to make sure that no calls go unanswered,” Whittle said. The office also will operate the Shuttle Interagency Debris Database, provide for data management and retention of records, help with mapping and continue claims processing.

For more information about NASA, the Columbia accident investigation and human spaceflight on the Internet, visit:

http:www.nasa.gov

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Note to Editors: Media representatives are invited to visit the Columbia Recovery Office and talk with Dave Whittle on Thursday, May 8, at 1 p.m. Those wishing to attend should contact John Ira Petty at the Johnson Space Center Public Affairs Office, (281) 483-5111, no later than 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 7.
 

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