Status Report

One NASA Responds to Tragedy in East Texas

By SpaceRef Editor
April 25, 2003
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NASA family came together as cohesively as it ever has
in East Texas this spring as workers from virtually
every NASA center helped organize and conduct the search
for clues to Space Shuttle Columbia’s demise.

all my years with NASA, I have never seen this agency’s
people band together as effectively as they have in
responding to this tragedy,” said Jerry Ross, who
took turns with fellow Astronaut Dom Gorie to coordinate
the day-to-day search efforts. “These people worked
very long days for weeks at a time away from home without
fighting, complaining or shirking their duty. They set
an example that our entire country should strive to

in cities like Lufkin, Corsicana, Palestine, Nacogdoches
and Hemphill, Texas, as well as Shreveport, La., employees
from NASA and its contractors worked shoulder-to-shoulder
with friends from the Federal Emergency Management Agency,
Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service,
Texas Forest Service and others. In all, more than 90
local, state and federal organizations responded to
the challenges of searching a 10-mile-wide, 240-mile-long
corridor in East Texas and West Louisiana by land, air
and water.

stretched those efforts as far west as the California
coast, using ingenious methods to predict where shuttle
material might have landed as Columbia broke up during
re-entry on February 1. And then, they shipped the pieces
back to Kennedy Space Center, where their colleagues
began reassembling them and working with the Columbia
Accident Investigation Board to determine the cause
of the accident.

of the NASA workers were friends of the seven astronauts
lost after their ambitious 16-day science mission. All
of those involved, whether they were in Mission Control
on that fateful day or had no previous connection to
America’s space program, dedicated themselves to the
cause of “bringing Columbia home.”

we are saddened by the events that have led to this
activity, we are all pleased with the cooperation, coordination,
dedication and hard work that are being exhibited,”
said Johnson Space Center’s Allen Flynt, one of three
NASA Oversight Managers directing efforts from the Lufkin
Command Center.

took turns overseeing the effort with Dave King of Marshall
Space Flight Center and Mike Rudolphi of Stennis Space
Center. “We’re also thankful for the new friendships
we’ve forged as our various centers, agencies, organizations
and personnel have come together to perform this difficult
task,” he said.

of the start of April, about 30 percent of Columbia,
by weight, had been recovered, and King predicted that
some 43 percent of the shuttle would be recovered by
the time the search concludes. Citizens and local officials
will be reporting discoveries for months, possibly years
to come, and NASA will respond as one to bring them

owe this to our seven brave colleagues who died on their
way home,” said JSC’s Dave Whittle, who led the
initial Mishap Response Team mobilized just minutes
after Mission Control declared a contingency and spent
time both the Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Lufkin
Command Centers. “We owe this to the children of
this world who will pick up the torch and carry it into
the future.”

SpaceRef staff editor.