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NASA Plans for Shuttle Work Post Katrina


Melissa Mathews/Allard Beutel
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1272/4769)

NASA Plans for Shuttle Work Post Katrina

NASA has accounted for all civil servants and most contractors at two 
facilities impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Several hundred contractor 
employees from Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, have not yet been 
contacted, and efforts are still under way to locate them. Taking care 
of employees is still the priority of recovery efforts, officials said 
Thursday. The agency is evaluating the storm's effect on the Space 
Shuttle Program. Top officials say it is too soon to determine how the 
storm will impact planning for Space Shuttle missions next year.

"We will always go with what the technical facts tell us," NASA 
Administrator Michael Griffin said in response to speculation about the 
next Space Shuttle launch date. "Right now, we are trying to gather 
those facts."

NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC), a sprawling facility on the 
Mississippi Gulf Coast where Space Shuttle Main Engines are tested, and 
Michoud, where Space Shuttle external fuel tanks are manufactured east 
of New Orleans, are in the storm-ravaged areas.

Griffin spoke to agency employees after touring the installations. He 
praised workers who oversaw agency facilities during and after the 
storm. "You can't buy the kind of dedication that I saw down there from 
our folks for money, for any amount of money," he said. "It is not about 
salary or about holding a job. It is about dedication to the program."

Griffin also said the agency is committed to maintaining long-term 
operations at Stennis and Michoud as the communities around them rebuild 
after the storm.

Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for Space Operations, 
and Bill Parsons, the senior agency official in charge of the hurricane 
recovery effort, told reporters Thursday facilities at SSC and Michoud 
suffered some significant damage but are largely intact. Inspections 
revealed the potential for only minimal damage to flight hardware. They 
said the larger issues are the large number of workers who lost their 
homes and transportation challenges due to flooded roads and washed-out 
bridges leading to both facilities.

"Our facilities are in pretty good shape, but we have to see what the 
workforce wants to do," Gerstenmaier said. "We're going to figure out 
the right thing to do."

A preliminary estimate indicates damage to NASA facilities and other 
costs associated with the hurricane could reach $1.1 billion, with an 
estimated $600 million in costs at Stennis and $500 million at Michoud.

Agency management is looking for ways to accommodate displaced workers 
and their families. Officials are also considering ways to use other 
NASA facilities to perform some work normally done at Stennis and Michoud.

Both Stennis and Michoud are closed to normal operations. There are 
plans to open Stennis in a limited capacity next week. Both facilities 
are operating as staging grounds for federal agencies conducting rescue 
and recovery efforts in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. The number 
of relief workers at Stennis could soon number several thousand.

"We have one heck of an operation going on here, and I'm glad I could be 
of some help," Parsons said.

Transcripts of remarks today by Griffin, Gerstenmaier and Parsons will 
be available today on NASA's Web site. For information about NASA's 
response to Hurricane Katrina, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit:


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