Six-Week Look Into <span class="italic">Columbia</span> Recovery Operation; Ground, Air Crews Top 1.5 Million Acres Searched

Main Content
Release date: 
March 18, 2003
Release Number: 

Lufkin, TX -- Six weeks after February 1, when President Bush designated the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the lead federal agency in the Columbia Space Shuttle response and recovery operation, approximately 5,500 federal and state workers continue searching for and supporting the overall recovery effort.

Ground and air operations have covered over 1.5 million acres, mostly in Texas, with searches also conducted in Louisiana, California, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico. To date 38,150 shuttle items have been recovered. Of these, 34,024 are confirmed to be shuttle material. The items processed by the Kennedy Space Center in Florida weigh 47,900 pounds and amount to 21.5% of the total weight of Columbia.

"The total cost of the search, find and recovery operation through March 17 amounts to $161,945,000. These funds include costs associated with the ground, air and water search operations, equipment and personnel," said Federal Coordinating Officer Scott Wells.

"The NASA organization greatly appreciates all of the dedicated and well coordinated efforts by the many federal, state and local organizations who have walked together with us down the road to recovery," said NASA Oversight Manager, Lufkin DFO, Mike Rudolphi.

FEMA Public Assistance, working through the State of Texas ($818,000) and State of Louisiana ($332,000) has obligated reimbursements totaling $1.15 million.

  • Ground Operations (Base Camps - 4,805 personnel)
    Interagency search teams consisting of 20-person crews walk searching for Columbia material. The Texas Forest Service and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration coordinate this.

  1. Nacogdoches - Southern Area Incident Command. Team has searched 53,986 acres and recovered more than 18,805 pieces

  2. Hemphill - Southwest Area Incident Command. Team has searched 57,629 acres and recovered more than 1,588 pieces.

  3. Palestine - Pacific Northwest National Incident Management. Team has searched 52,060 acres and recovered more than 3,121 pieces.

  4. Corsicana - Pacific Northwest National Incident Management. Team has searched 84,002 acres and recovered more than 4,685 pieces.

  5. Longview - Columbia Support Mobilization and Staging Team consisting of more than 140 members who mobilize and demobilize all base camp personnel.

  6. Total search hours attributed to the ground operation in the first 6-weeks has amounted to 448,749. Combined agency teams have searched more than 247,677 acres.

  • Air Operations (Helicopter and Fixed Wing Aircraft - 200 personnel)
    Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft have flown more than 550 missions in the past six weeks. The Texas Forest Service (TFS) and NASA coordinate all air search operations.

    1. Daily air search operations are being conducted in Texas along the primary search corridor consisting of a 10 mile by 200-mile area.

    2. Searches are being conducted, as weather permits, in New Mexico, Utah and Nevada. Four additional areas, between Fort Worth and Lubbock are being searched.

    3. There are 200 individuals involved in the air operations. Air personnel have searched 1,300,200 acres.

  • Water Operations (Using Side Scan, Multi Beam Sonar Assets - 138 personnel)
    The U.S. Navy ...
  • Last Updated: 
    July 16, 2012 - 18:46
    State/Tribal Government or Region: 
    Back to Top