The House of Representatives sent a collective "thank you" to the 20,000 volunteers who helped search for debris following the Space Shuttle Columbia accident. The House passed H. Res. 222, introduced by Science Committee Ranking Member Ralph M. Hall (D-TX) as a tribute to the volunteers, by a vote of 411-0.
"The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the thousands of individuals and organizations who worked so tirelessly to recover the Space Shuttle debris," said Hall. "I introduced House Resolution 222 as a way for the House of Representatives to express our thanks on behalf of all America."
Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) said, "The number of individuals who joined in this search is simply astounding and Congress, NASA and the entire nation will benefit from their Herculean efforts for years to come. I join Rep. Hall and the rest of my colleagues in this formal expression of our gratitude."
Volunteers from NASA, the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, EPA, FBI, Defense Department, Department of Transportation, U.S. Forest Service, Park Service, Texas and Louisiana National Guard, fire crews from 42 states, state and local authorities as well as many farmers, landowners, and citizens helped locate, document and collect the debris in a search that covered 700,000 acres on foot and 1.6 million acres by air. The search teams endured snow and ice storms as well as brambles and swamps in their search, and tragically a pilot and Forest Service Ranger lost their lives in helicopter crash while searching for debris in the Angelina National Forest in East Texas on March 27th.
"Few things embody the triumph and tragedy that make up the fabric of our country more than the space program," said Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI). "The space program's very purpose -- to discover what lies beyond our world -- is at the heart of the American spirit. The thousands of Americans who aided in the Columbia debris search have become a vital part of our nation's space program."
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) added, "In supporting this resolution, we honor the personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the United States Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and especially the citizens of eastern Texas as they offered their whole-hearted support, both physical and emotional, to the debris search teams. I pledge to do what I can to help our space program recover from this terrible setback so these important endeavors can flourish in the future."Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) said, "Our nation and the Congress have honored the memory of the seven astronauts who gave the last full measure of devotion to the cause of space exploration and pay our respects to their families affected by this tragedy. Today with this resolution, we honor over 20,000 Americans who worked long hours over the past several months under difficult weather and terrain conditions to find the remains of the Columbia crew and scattered pieces of the Space Shuttle."