Columbia debris recovery efforts continued today centered in areas of eastern Texas and western Louisiana. More than 1,600 recovered items are at Barksdale Air Force Base, Shreveport, La. Barksdale is the central field collection point for debris being shipped to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla., to begin Shuttle Columbia reconstruction.
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 begin this week. Two truckloads of items departed Louisiana en-route to KSC today.
No confirmed debris has been recovered west of the Fort Worth area. Teams continue to investigate reports from 27 states and eight jurisdictions outside of the U.S. Of 179 reports received from California, 105 have been closed. Of 162 reports in Arizona, eight have been closed. Of 12 reports in New Mexico, four have been closed.
To assist recovery 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 due to several eyewitness reports of debris entering those lakes. The search 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 included a roughly two-foot square section of an external tank umbilical door, a hydrazine propellant tank and electronics equipment from the Ku-band communications system. The Ku-band communications debris was erroneously identified yesterday as one of Columbia's five flight control computers, known as General Purpose Computers (GPCs). No GPCs have been identified among recovered items. All identifications of items are preliminary.
On the International Space Station, Expedition Six Commander Ken Bowersox, NASA Station Science Officer Don Pettit and Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin took time out from unpacking items delivered by a Progress-10 Russian supply craft for their first news conference since the Columbia accident. The conference took place about three hours after the Progress' thrusters boosted 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 the crew is being kept apprised of the status of the accident investigation.
"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 the crew was 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," he said.
Bowersox and Pettit said they have told Mission Control they are willing to stay in orbit for a year or more if necessary, and 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. If we could continue to collect data and life science data in data sets for 10 or 15 year periods, it may actually turn out to be one of the more valuable data sets we get," he said.
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.
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