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Space Shuttle <span class="italic">Columbia</span> Search Records Impressive Numbers

Release date: 
March 21, 2003
Release Number: 

Lufkin, TX -- Fifty days into the search for materials from the Space Shuttle Columbia, federal officials are confident in their effort and determined to continue their work as long as is necessary.

Air, ground and water search operations remain focused on counties in East Texas intersected by the shuttle's flight path. Investigators are also following up on information from the National Transportation Safety Board indicating the strong possibility of debris sites in Nevada, Utah and New Mexico.

"We have more than 5,600 men and women working on the recovery," said Federal Coordinating Officer Scott Wells, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "They have recovered 51,600 pounds, or 23% by weight, of the shuttle. This is a tribute to their stamina, their ability, and their commitment."

While those in air search operations encounter high winds, fog, and thunderstorms and those in water search operations encounter low visibility, underwater bridges, railroad tracks, mail boxes and a veritable forest, those on the ground face particularly challenging obstacles.

On a typical day in the field, a searcher will cover 2.7 to 4.1 acres depending upon the terrain. This searcher may also encounter bad weather, ticks, snakes, dehydration, barbed wire, electrified fences, fire ants, feral hogs, armadillo holes, bulls, horses, cattle, bees, thorns and the like. The rewards for this effort range from finding a significant piece of the shuttle to sharing in the knowledge that another team has found a piece or pieces that will contribute to the findings of the investigative team.

Air Operations: 174 personnel; 1,300,200 acres searched. More than 900 pieces of shuttle material retrieved
Assets: 31 helicopters, ten fixed-wing aircraft and a DC-3.
Water Operations: 151 personnel; 14.69 square nautical miles searched. 1,903 targets cleared.
Assets: dive boats, two autonomous underwater vehicles, two multi-beam sonar scanners, and three side sonar scanners
Ground Operations: 5,473 total personnel; 278,784 acres searched. More than 30,250 sites cleared.

Hemphill: 1,238 personnel; 65,013 acres searched.
Nacogdoches: 1,175 personnel; . 59,434 acres searched
Palestine: 1,015 personnel; 57,105 acres searched.
Corsicana: 1,293 personnel; 97,232 acres searched.

Federal agencies: Cooperating in the search - National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Park Service, U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, United States Air Force, United States Army, U.S. Marine Corps, National Transportation Safety Board, U.S. Marshall, Department of the Interior, Department of Transportation, Urban Search and Rescue, Government Services Administration, National Weather Service and Tennessee Valley Authority.

State agencies: Cooperating in the search - Texas Department of Public Safety; Texas Forest Service, Texas Division of Emergency Management, Texas National Guard, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Engineering Extension Service, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wil...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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