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NASA RESEARCH AIRCRAFT SEARCHES COLUMBIA'S PATH FOR DEBRIS



Submitted by Arthur N1ORC

Michael Braukus
Headquarters, Washington        Feb. 26, 2003
(Phone: 202/358-1979)

Fred Johnsen
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
(Phone: 661/276-2998)

RELEASE: 03-079

NASA RESEARCH AIRCRAFT SEARCHES COLUMBIA'S PATH FOR DEBRIS

     A NASA high-altitude research aircraft flew over 
portions of the Space Shuttle Columbia's flight path 
Saturday. NASA's ER-2 used special cameras to search for 
debris that may have separated from Columbia as it returned 
to Earth Feb. 1. Columbia disintegrated over the western 
United States during its descent, and investigators are 
collecting debris in an effort to determine the cause of the 
accident.

The ER-2 is similar to U.S. Air Force U-2 reconnaissance 
aircraft.  NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, 
Calif., operates a pair of ER-2s for earth and environmental 
science missions.

Saturday's seven-hour flight was flown at 40,000 feet over 
parts of western Texas. Imagery obtained during the flight is 
being studied to determine if it can show the location of 
Shuttle debris. To help searchers analyze the imagery, 
various samples of debris (not from Columbia) were placed on 
the ER-2's flight path for comparison purposes.

Anyone who finds material, suspected to be from the Shuttle, 
is urged to avoid contact, because it may be hazardous due to 
fuel residue. Report possible debris by calling, toll-free: 
1-866/446-6603.

Shuttle material may not look like typical aircraft 
components. Pictures of examples of Shuttle debris may be 
viewed on the Internet at:

www.nasa.gov/columbia/COL_debris_pix.html

All debris is U.S. government property and may be critical to 
the investigation of the mishap. Debris from the accident 
should be left in place and reported to Government 
authorities. Unauthorized persons found in possession of 
accident debris will be prosecuted to the full extent of the 
law.

Photos of the NASA ER-2 aircraft are available, in high 
resolution suitable for publication, in the Gallery section 
of the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Web site at:

www.dfrc.nasa.gov  

Information about NASA and the Columbia Accident 
Investigation Board is available on the Internet at:

www.nasa.gov

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