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STATEMENT BY NASA ADMINISTRATOR SEAN O'KEEFE



Robert Mirelson
Headquarters, Washington            Feb. 1, 2003
(Phone: 202/358-1600)               4 p.m. EST
 
RELEASE: 03-032
 
STATEMENT BY NASA ADMINISTRATOR SEAN O'KEEFE
 
     "This is indeed a tragic day for the NASA family, for 
the families of the astronauts who flew on STS-107, and 
likewise is tragic for the Nation.
 
"Immediately upon indication of a loss of communications from 
STS-107, at a little after 9:00 a.m. this morning, we began 
our contingency plan to preserve all the information relative 
to the flight activities. 
 
"I immediately advised the President and the Secretary of 
Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, at the point after landing was 
due to have occurred at 9:16 a.m., and spoke to them very 
briefly to advise them that we had lost contact with the 
Shuttle orbiter, Columbia, and STS-107 crew. They offered, 
the President specifically offered, full and immediate 
support to determine the appropriate steps to be taken. 
 
"We then spent the next hour and a half working through the 
details and information of what we have received and Bill 
Readdy, Associate Administrator for the NASA Office of Space 
Flight, will walk you through the specifics of those 
operational and technical issues. 
 
"We met with the family members of the astronauts who were 
here at the Kennedy Space Center and are soon to be departing 
back to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The President 
has called and spoken to the family members to express our 
deepest national regrets. We have assured them that we will 
begin the process immediately to recover their loved ones and 
understand the cause of this tragedy. 
 
"We have no indication that the mishap was caused by anything 
or anyone on the ground. 
 
"We assembled a Mishap Investigation Team at a point past the 
stage that the orbiter was to have landed here at Kennedy 
Space Center a little after 9:30. That team, in turn, is 
coordinating on a regular basis on all the facts that are 
pertaining to this from the Johnson Space Center with help 
from a Rapid Response Team from here at the Kennedy Space 
Center, as well participants from the Marshall Space Flight 
Center in Huntsville, Alabama. 
 
"In addition to these internal efforts, we have appointed a 
Mishap Investigation Board, an external group of people who 
are independent from NASA who will be charged with the 
responsibility to look at all the information that was 
immediately locked down right after the absence of 
communications. 
 
"Each of these individuals are Safety and Mission Assurance 
related officials in other departments of the Federal 
government, from the Air Force, the Navy, the Department of 
Transportation, and across the federal expanse. This 
Investigation Team will be chaired by an individual who is 
external to the federal agencies and will have the 
responsibility to coordinate all the information from an 
external view. 
 
"So we'll be conducting both the internal activity as well as 
the external review immediately to ascertain the causes and 
circumstances under which this tragedy occurred. 
 
"We have pulled together all the federal agencies and local 
governments as well. I have been in discussion several times 
this morning with Secretary Tom Ridge. The effort is under 
way to coordinate an understanding of exactly where the 
orbiter path had taken it from West Texas towards the Kennedy 
Space Center here in Florida and to make sure that the 
material on the ground is secured so that the investigation 
can begin promptly. 
 
"We would urge people who believe they have found any 
material to stay away from it and to please contact local 
officials. The local first responder groups for emergency 
services have been authorized and directed by Secretary Tom 
Ridge to assist in any way. The Federal Emergency Management 
Agency is coordinating that effort on behalf of the 
Department of Homeland Security. 
 
"I was here this morning with the families of the astronauts 
and their friends. It started out as a pretty happy morning, 
as we awaited the landing of STS-107. We had highly 
anticipated their return because we couldn't wait to 
congratulate them for their extraordinary performance and 
their excellent effort on this very important science 
mission. 
 
"They dedicated their lives to pushing scientific challenges 
for all of us here on Earth. They dedicated themselves to 
that objective and did it with a happy heart, willingly and 
with great enthusiasm. 
 
"The loss of this valued crew is something we will never be 
able to get over.  We have assured the families that we will 
do everything, everything we can possibly do to guarantee 
that we work our way through this horrific tragedy. 
We ask the members of the media to honor that too. Please 
respect their privacy and please understand the tragedy that 
they are going through at this time. We will help the media 
assure that this will be the case as well. 
 
"We trust the prayers of the Nation will be with them and 
with their families. A more courageous group of people you 
could not have hoped to know- an extraordinary group of 
astronauts who gave their lives-and the families of these 
crewmembers. They knew exactly the risks. And never, ever did 
we want to see a circumstance in which this could happen. 
 
"We diligently dedicate ourselves every single day to 
assuring these things don't occur. And when they do we have 
to act responsibly, accountably and that is exactly what we 
will do."
 
For more information on the Internet:
 
www.nasa.gov
 
 
 
 

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