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East Texas Columbia Recovery Effort Nears Completion

Press Release From: Johnson Space Center
Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2003

As the Central Texas search for material from the Space Shuttle Columbia moved westward, the East Texas search began nearing completion. Air operations continued last week, and underwater searches were completed.

Search teams have completed 98 percent of the underwater searches in Lake Nacogdoches and Toledo Bend Reservoir. Ground teams have completed 78 percent of their primary search area, and airborne crews finished 80 percent of their assigned area. More than 70,000 items, weighing 78,000 pounds, about 36 percent of the Shuttle by weight, have been delivered to Kennedy Space Center for use in the mishap investigation.

Officials are finalizing plans to create a Columbia Recovery Office (CRO) at Johnson Space Center, Houston. The CRO will assume responsibility for management of recovery and community liaison activities. The Disaster Field Office in Lufkin, Texas, the central planning and command center for the search, is expected to close in early May.

NASA and FEMA are working with partner agencies to close the four Incident Command Posts and the Mobilization and Staging Area. The U.S. and Texas Forest Services managed the Incident Command Posts, and they are expected to close the first of the camps in late April. Camps are located in Hemphill, Nacogdoches, Palestine and Corsicana, Texas.

The painstaking search of the main 2400 square mile search corridor was executed through the combined efforts of NASA, FEMA, EPA, U.S. and Texas Forest Services. Individuals from these organizations, aided by local authorities and landowners, have worked long hours under arduous conditions over difficult terrain to recover Shuttle debris.

NASA plans to maintain a relationship with the officials and people of the East Texas communities affected by the Columbia accident and debris search through community outreach and education programs.

For more information about NASA and the Space Shuttle Columbia investigation on the Internet, visit: http://www.nasa.gov

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