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NASA Tells Breaux: Michoud Cooperated in Columbia Investigation

Press Release From: Sen.Breaux
Posted: Wednesday, September 3, 2003

WASHINGTON (Sept. 3) - The chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board told Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) at a hearing today that the Lockheed Martin Michoud facility outside New Orleans has shown "outstanding cooperation" in helping determine the cause of the Shuttle accident, and Michoud is working diligently to fix the problems.

At a Commerce Committee hearing this morning, Sen. Breaux specifically questioned Investigative Board Chairman Admiral Harold Gehman about his experience working with the Lockheed Martin Facility during his seven-month Columbia accident investigation.

"The NASA officials assured me they had the full cooperation of Michoud officials who are working hard to correct the problems and are eager to return to flight," said Sen. Breaux, the ranking member on the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space. Sen. Breaux also indicated his strong support for the human space flight program and a return to America's flight endeavors.

Last week, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) released its final investigative report on the Feb. 1 explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia that killed all seven crew members returning to Earth after its 16-day science mission in orbit. Since then, NASA has grounded all Shuttle flights pending this CAIB investigation.

According to the Senate Commerce Committee review, the CAIB report found the causes of the Shuttle accident were both technical and cultural. The report concluded that, technically, foam separating from the external fuel tank led to the opening of a fatal entry point in the leading edge of Shuttle Columbia's wing, allowing heat to melt the orbiter's left wing during re-entry.

The committee also said the CAIB investigation concluded an equal contributor to the Columbia loss was NASA's overall culture that allowed errors in analysis and judgement, indecision, administrative confusion and safety mismanagement.

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