Primary Search For Columbia Material Passes Halfway Mark
Glenn Mahone/Doc Mirelson
Lufkin Command Center, Texas
Johnson Space Center, Houston
|March 25, 2003
As the search of more than 500,000 acres of primary recovery area
for Space Shuttle Columbia material reached its halfway mark, NASA
Administrator, Sean O'Keefe, visited key sites in east Texas to
thank recovery crews for their diligence and hard work.
"The outstanding interagency cooperation, and the hard work
of all the individuals working on recovery, has been truly gratifying
and inspiring," Administrator O'Keefe said. "There has
been an untiring, fulltime, and dedicated effort to recover Columbia
material. The great recovery work directly supports the efforts
of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board to determine what caused
the Shuttle mishap", he said. On Monday Administrator O'Keefe
and Associate Administer for Space Flight, William F. Readdy visited
the Lufkin Command Center, Nacogdoches Base Camp, and Toledo Bend
Reservoir Dive Site.
Approximately 4500 ground searchers have covered approximately 56
percent of the planned 555,000-acre search area. The air search
has covered approximately 74 percent of 604, four-square nautical
mile grids; and, on water, searchers have scanned about 81 percent
of a planned 14.7 square nautical mile area. The search should be
completed within four to six weeks, weather permitting. Searches
farther west, along Columbia's ground track, likely will take additional
time, because of the great area involved.
About 25 percent of the Shuttle Columbia, by weight, has been delivered
to the collection hangar at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla. More
is en route from the searched area in eastern Texas and western
Louisiana to KSC.
Last Wednesday's recovery of the Orbiter Experiment Support System
recorder (OEX) is potentially significant, and search coordinators
hope to recover additional critical items. "We are extremely
excited with the recent discovery of this recorder, and we want
to thank the other agencies and communities for their support,"
said Allen Flynt, NASA Oversight Manager at the Lufkin Command Center.
"But we remain dedicated to our goal of bringing home as much
of Columbia as possible. We remain focused on the recovery effort,
which continues at full strength, " he said.
Some of the top priorities of NASA, and its local, state and federal
partners, are to recover or clean up potentially hazardous materials
and ensure the public's safety. The Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) has responsibility for the overall disaster response
effort. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with
collecting and delivering recovered Shuttle material to NASA and
the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB). The U.S. Forest
Service and Texas Forest Service are coordinating the land and air
search. The U.S. Navy is managing water search activities.
"We still have an obligation to the residents of Texas and
Louisiana, as well as any other state that may contain Columbia
material, to recover all known material and leave the land as it
was prior to Feb. 1. Our obligation also extends to providing all
public assistance funds to eligible applicants, and we'll satisfy
all those obligations before closing down," said FEMA Federal
Coordinating Officer Scott Wells.
All of these organizations are continuing to encourage local residents
to report any possible Shuttle materials to the toll-free hotline
at the Lufkin Command Center at: 1/866/446-6603
For more information about NASA and the Space Shuttle Columbia accident
investigation on the Internet, visit:
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