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NASA Mishap Response Status #11



Submitted by Arthur - N1ORC

NASA Mishap Response Status #11 
Tuesday, March 4, 2003 - 6 p.m. CST 
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas 

The past week was a good one for the Columbia Accident Investigation
Board, retired Adm. Harold W. "Hal" Gehman Jr., CAIB chairman, said
today. 

Gehman told a press briefing in Houston that a number of independent
investigations into elements of Space Shuttle Columbia's destruction are
"offering tidbits of information." But in response to questions, he
refused to characterize how advanced the investigation is. "We don't know
how far along we are because we don't know where we're going," he said. 

The board continues to work seven-day weeks. "Our energy and seriousness
have not flagged," Gehman said, adding that the board is confident it
will find the primary and contributing causes of the accident. 

Three other board members, representing each of the board's three groups,
participated in the briefing, held at Houston's Lunar and Planetary
Institute. Roger Tetrault of the material analysis group; Steven Wallace
of the group looking at operations, training and flight readiness
certification; and Rear Adm. Stephen Turcotte of the maintenance,
materials and management group outlined progress. 

Tetrault, former chairman and CEO of McDermott International, outlined
debris finds, including tiles that had black, aluminum-containing
deposits on them. "I think it would be fair to say we have more questions
than answers now, but we're getting smarter fast." He said 22,563 pieces
of debris have been found, of which 16,063 have been identified. Debris
collected so far weighs 32,100 pounds, about 13.7 percent of Columbia's
original weight, he said. 

The search for debris continued in Texas Tuesday, though clouds kept
search aircraft from flying. Ground crews found more than 1,000 pieces of
material believed to be from the Shuttle, including thermal protection
tiles and a 26-inch-diameter helium tank found near San Augustine, Texas,
and a right-hand main landing gear actuator near Hemphill. 

Today, 39 crews from the Nacogdoches command post, 35 crews from
Hemphill, 34 from Palestine and 50 from Corsicana participated in the
search. Due to heavy rains Monday, some crews worked only half days. 

Navy-led dive teams continued their search in Toledo Bend reservoir and
Lake Nacogdoches. 

California volunteer posses completed a low-intensity search effort along
the California coast without finding any Shuttle materials. They were
looking for debris that might have fallen into the ocean and drifted to
shore in Mendocino, Sonoma and Marin Counties 30 miles north and south of
Columbia's re-entry track. Weather continued to postpone search
activities in Nevada and New Mexico. 

The CAIB will hold the first in a series of public hearing Thursday at
the University of Houston - Clear Lake. 

For more information about board activities on the Internet visit the
CAIB's website: 

www.caib.us 

For more information on NASA on the Internet, see: 

www.nasa.gov 

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