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Space Shuttle Columbia Search and Recovery Enters New Phase

Glenn Mahone/Doc Mirelson
Headquarters, Washington

Eileen M. Hawley
Johnson Space Center, Houston

Feb. 19, 2003

RELEASE: 03-076

The search for materials from the Space Shuttle Columbia accident is entering a new phase. NASA is consolidating two of the primary search coordination field offices and establishing four incident command posts and base camps.

The search is intensifying based on initial success with grid-search techniques, and because spring vegetation growth is expected to make recovery efforts more difficult.

Immediately after the accident, NASA established several different local command and coordination field offices at Barksdale Air Force Base at Shreveport, La., the Lufkin Emergency Operations Center in Lufkin, Texas, and Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base (Carswell Field), Fort Worth, Texas. The Lufkin, Barksdale and Carswell operations will be consolidated at Lufkin this week.

The consolidation at Lufkin is designed for better coordination of search and recovery operations. Barksdale will continue to be the receiving and shipping point for Columbia materials being sent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final identification.

Four interagency command posts and base camps are being established in Corsicana, Hemphill, Nacogdoches and Palestine, Texas, to direct intensified ground searches. Inter-agency management teams are being deployed to the camps to conduct searches. Up to 3,500 searchers, made up of personnel from a variety of federal and state land management agencies, and fire departments, will operate out of the camps under a management structure typically used in support of wildfires. Teams of approximately 20 trained wilderness firefighters will operate out of the camps, and each team will conduct grid searches.

In addition, air search assets are being increased to 35 helicopters. The helicopters, provided by land management agencies and the 3,500 searchers will be working in an area that is 240 miles long. The area runs from Ellis County, south of Dallas, to Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Texas-Louisiana border. Air searches will concentrate on a 10-mile-wide corridor five miles on either side of that line. Ground searches will concentrate on a four-mile-wide corridor two miles on either side of that line. Air searches will be conducted from Lufkin and Palestine, Texas.

The U.S. Navy is continuing to manage water recovery operations in East Texas reservoirs, including Lake Nacogdoches and Toledo Bend Reservoir. The underwater search is using side-scanning sonar and dive teams from the Navy and other organizations.

NASA continues to encourage citizens to report finding any materials suspected to be materials from the Columbia accident. Citizens are reminded Shuttle materials may not look like typical aircraft components. Pictures of examples of Shuttle debris may be viewed at the following website:

Anyone who discovers material suspected to be from the accident is urged to avoid contact, because it may be hazardous as a result of toxic propellants aboard the Shuttle.

Telephone debris reports should be made by calling, toll-free: 1-866-446-6603

Text reports and images should be e-mailed to:

All debris is U.S. Government property and is critical to the investigation of the mishap. All debris from the accident should be left in place and reported to Government authorities. Unauthorized persons found in possession of accident debris will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

- end -

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