NASA Public Affairs Office
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
Caring for people continues to be the focus of NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC) in response to Hurricane Katrina, more than three weeks after the storm devastated the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast.
There was no significant damage to any of the stands where SSC has tested and proven flight-worthy all Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) since 1975. SSC is open and operating at a modified level of business.
"Our top priority is helping our employees and their families and helping facilitate the massive relief effort being staged by Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Defense, and other agencies from Stennis Space Center," said SSC Center Director Bill Parsons, who is leading NASA's hurricane recovery efforts.
Parsons was named SSC center director Sept. 13, succeeding retired Rear Admiral Thomas Q. Donaldson, USN. Donaldson is on special assignment to FEMA to help with recovery efforts in Mississippi. Parsons returns to the position he held prior to becoming Space Shuttle program manager in May 2003.
Most of the commercial power at SSC went off early in the morning of Aug. 29, as Hurricane Katrina was making landfall. Some buildings were able to run generators for power, and the electrical generating plant at the rocket engine test complexes was able to provide power to the NASA Administration Building. Commercial power was restored to most of SSC after about a week and a half.
Many members of the NASA/contractor teams that maintain and operate the test complexes have been working on recovery work crews, but officials anticipate they will gradually resume normal operations over the next two weeks.
None of the large run tanks on the test stands were damaged, nor were the barges used to transport fuel to the test stands. "We're in excellent shape as far as the facility goes," said Randy Galloway, deputy director of the SSC Propulsion Test Directorate (PTD). "We're now in the process of getting systems back up, but there were no major casualties to the rocket engine test complexes." Galloway said there is no indication of any damage to any SSME hardware, and that crews are proceeding to work on an SSME that is installed on the A-1 Test Stand. Construction was in progress on the A-2 Test Stand before Hurricane Katrina, but it was put into a safe configuration in one working day before the storm.
PTD officials will conduct a test readiness review to determine when SSME testing can resume.
For more than a week immediately after the storm, SSC served as an emergency shelter for more than 3,500 people - including area residents and employees and their families - who safely rode out the hurricane and the initial aftermath at the center. During that week, cafeteria and volunteer workers served approximately 9,000 meals a day to the evacuees at no charge. The last of the area residents left SSC by Sept. 9 for other, more permanent accommodations.
The Stennis Occupational Health Clinic, which normally conducts employee physicals, provided primary and emergency care to the evacuees. Supported by doctors and nurses from other NASA centers and volunteer medical personnel including emergency medical teams from Florida, the clinic saw between 90 and 150 patients a day, and provided care to 32 special-needs patients. The clinic staff also administered more than 800 inoculations during the week to people at SSC, and provided 200 tetanus shots to victims in the surrounding community.
After the storm passed, Stennis provided telephone service to enable evacuees to contact family members and arrange other accommodations, and provided fuel or offered bus transportation to enable stranded evacuees to leave the area for better, long-term accommodations.
The Stennis Center is now aiding in areawide recovery support by providing a base of operation for federal and state relief agencies. A FEMA-affiliated recovery force at Stennis includes 1,500 people, and the number of relief workers is expected to grow to more than 3,500 in the near future.
Truckloads of essential items, including water, ready-to-eat meals, ice, tarps and baby food are being dispatched daily from Stennis to points of distribution in the storm-affected region. A store was set up at the SSC warehouse where donated items have been made available to SSC employees and their families.
As of Sept. 19, SSC employees have been able to enroll their children in grades K-12 in a day camp run by the NASA Office of External Affairs and Education. About 100 students are attending the camp, which conducts activities and projects throughout the day. The camp will operate until public and private schools reopen.
About 250 SSC employees have volunteered as relief workers to help with tree and debris removal, roof repair and salvage. About 15 teams have been helping employees in Pearl River, Hancock and Harrison counties, Miss., St. Tammany Parish, La., and in outlying areas such as Jackson County, Miss., and metropolitan New Orleans.
SSC has been serving as a staging point for urban search and rescue teams. An estimated 1,500 rescue personnel operated from the facility at the peak of search operations in the days following the hurricane.
A website (http://www.nasa.gov/katrina) has been established for updates about general conditions at SSC and the MAF.
News releases provided by NASA's Stennis Space Center are available at http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/news/index.html For more information, call the NASA Public Affairs Office at Stennis at 1-800-237-1821 in Mississippi and Louisiana only, or (228) 688-3341.
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