For release: 09/02/03
Release #: 03-159
Profile: Sam Ortega
How do thousands of people search an area slightly smaller than the state of Delaware and race against time to round up important clues in an accident investigation? Marshall Center engineer Sam Ortega found out when he was called to help search 690,000 acres covering Texas and Louisiana for debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia. Just 14 days after Columbia was lost, Ortega left NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he was on special assignment, and headed to Lufkin, Texas to help organize searches over ground, in the water and from the air. Ortega and teams of searchers, coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, helped provide crucial evidence about what happened during the tragic accident. Searchers recovered 84,700 pounds of Shuttle material, almost 38 percent of the total Shuttle weight.
Photo: Sam Ortega, standing, with Bill Readdy, NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for the International Space Station and Space Shuttle Program. (NASA/Renee Bouchard)