Skip to comments.Shuttle Debris Rains on Texas, Blackens Earth / STS-107
Posted on 02/01/2003 12:51:53 PM PST by NormsRevenge
RICE, Texas (Reuters) - Debris from space shuttle Columbia rained down onto fields and highways in Texas on Saturday, with witnesses coming across smoldering metal wreckage, including what appeared to be a door from the orbiter, local officials and eyewitnesses said.
A 100-mile-long debris cloud of ash and metal fragments also spread over the state's wide open rural spaces and into neighboring Louisiana, local weather officials said.
One piece of wreckage about three feet by five feet was smoldering in a field near Rice, Texas, just off Interstate 45 about 45 miles south of Dallas.
Police were urging vehicles that slowed to look at the site to keep moving away from the toxic debris along the highway that links Houston and Dallas.
On one Texan field, wisps of gray smoke rose from a huge patch of blackened grass where debris had scorched the earth.
The seven astronauts aboard the shuttle were killed after U.S. space agency NASA (news - web sites) lost contact with them about 9 a.m.
Residents across eastern Texas heard three loud explosions and saw streams of vapor before watching debris rain from the spacecraft, Larry Mars a police detective in Palestine, Texas, said.
Television images showed Columbia, which was completing a 16-day mission, appeared to explode above Texas, immediately leaving several white trails across brilliant blue skies.
It was traveling 12,500 miles per hour at 207,000 feet above Earth -- only 16 minutes from its scheduled landing at Kennedy Space Center (news - web sites) in Florida.
There were no reports of injuries or damage on the ground from the debris that appeared to be scattered over a vast area of 120 square miles.
Local weather officials estimated the lighter material in the debris cloud would take up to 10 hours to finish falling, while all big pieces had likely already hit the ground.
DEBRIS COVERS COLLEGE CITY
Officials in Nacogdoches, Texas, said residents reported spotting many pieces of the debris dispersed throughout the college city of about 30,000 people, located about 145 miles northeast of Houston.
The ruins ranged in size and the city had received one report of a door from the shuttle being found, she added.
"We do have a debris field. It is scattered all throughout Nacogdoches," city manager Victoria Lafollett said.
"The number of pieces being reported is just impossible to keep up with, she said. "Some are very small, some are larger," she said.
NASA scrambled rescue units to search for wreckage and recover the remains of the crew, which included the first Israeli to fly on the shuttle, former combat pilot Col. Ilan Ramon. The rest of the crew consisted of six Americans, four men and two women.
Bush administration officials said there was no indication the breakup was due to terrorism.
But a White House spokesman said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge spoke to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and homeland security officials in Louisiana and Oklahoma because wreckage was also believed to have rained down into those states.
NASA warned people to stay clear of the smoldering debris.
"Any debris that is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth vicinity should be avoided and may be hazardous due to the toxic nature of propellants used on board the shuttle and should be reported to local law enforcement authorities," NASA mission control in Houston said.
|Sat Feb 1, 3:42 PM ET|
The crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia is seen in this undated composite photo. All seven astronauts were lost when Columbia broke up in the skies over Texas February 1, 2003, just minutes before a scheduled landing at the Kennedy Space Center (news - web sites) in Florida. Photo by Nasa (news - web sites)/Reuters
Lord, we commit these souls unto your care.
Prayers to the families and friends of those lost in this terrible event.
|Sat Feb 1,11:17 AM ET|
The space shuttle Columbia was feared crashed in northeastern Texas, February 1, 2003, with seven astronauts on board. The seven STS-107 crew members take a break from their training regime to pose for the traditional crew portrait. Seated in front are astronauts Rick D. Husband (left), mission commander; Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; and William C. McCool, pilot. Standing are (from the left} astronauts David M. Brown, Laurel B. Clark, and Michael P. Anderson, all mission specialists; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist representing the Israeli Space Agency. This photo was taken October, 2001. NO SALES NO ARCHIVE EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/NASA (news - web sites)
|Sat Feb 1, 3:47 PM ET|
Flags surrounding the Washington Monument fly at half staff February 1, 2003 in honor of the astronauts killed in the space shuttle Columbia disaster. Seven astronauts perished today as their craft broke up on reentry in northeastern Texas. REUTERS/Jason Reed
Ok course the crash investigators want a pristine site, and some materials can be toxic, but has anybody heard anything about if there actually was highly classified data or equipment aboard this flight?
The Space Shuttle carries a very toxic fuel called hydrozen. I remember when two German farmers in the 80's who came across a crash of an American F-16 that augured into a field. Both were rendered unconscious by the toxic hyrozen fumes coming from the crash.
Personally, I think the toxic materials bit is overblown. They don't want anyone coming in contact with the debris because it is forensic evidence.
I.E. They're not as concerned about the wreckage contaminating people as they are about people contaminating the wreckage.
(Or scarfing it up and selling it on e-bay)
Hydrazine for the attitude thrusters can be nasty. But I recall when I was a kid, an ancient F104 had crashed, and a cop was shouting to the crowd that gathered and was plucking souveniers, "This magnesium is going to explode", so a lot of this probably is an easy crowd control method.
But I would not want to be an E-Bay seller of any of this stuff. There must be quite a few laws regarding looting and stolen Government property that could be used to bring the hammer down.
......good to see someone else with the same thought about the "debris".....
What is hydrozen? If you meant hydrogen, then I don't see anything toxic there, and I don't know why it would be in a F-16.
People have already been taken to the hospital for handling shuttle debris and getting sick.
All the reports I have seen said those people had minor burns.
(The meaning of any abbreviations which appear in this section is given here.)
ORL-RAT LD50 129 mg kg-1
ORL-MUS LD50 83 mg kg-1
SKN-RBT LDLO 20 mg kg-1
IHL-RAT LC50 0.75 mg/l/4h
ORL-GPG LD50 40 mg kg-1
(The meaning of any risk phrases which appear in this section is given here.)
R23 R24 R25 R34 R43 R45 R50 R53.
(The meaning of any safety phrases which appear in this section is given here.)
S45 S53 S60 S61.
This information was last updated on January 14, 2002. We have tried to make it as accurate and useful as possible, but can take no responsibility for its use, misuse, or accuracy. We have not verified this information, and cannot guarantee that it is up-to-date.
Very. Hydrazene is deadly.
If I own a field, and stuff falls out of the sky onto my field, what do the laws say about ownership? I believe that stuff which washes ashore from shipwrecks is generally "finders keepers", but I don't know if there are special rules for aircraft or spacecraft. That being said, I can't imagine anyone not affiliated with the crew wanting any such item. Of course, I can't really imagine anyone wanting coal from the Titanic but I've seen it advertised for sale.
Good point, and as a respecter of property I agree. I feel my property begins at Earth's center, radiates outwards to the boundaries of my property and extends up to 500 Feet.
But I recall there has always been some kind of law regarding keeping things like weather balloons, etc., and of course, this stuff is forensic evidence, so I would expect that would trump property rights.
PS: I have not tested my property doctrine by firing at low flying aircraft. Yet. :-)
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Debris rained down Saturday over hundreds of square miles of Texas and Louisiana, smashing a rooftop, splashing into a reservoir and sending emergency crews on a far-flung hunt for bits of what was once space shuttle Columbia.
Across the city of Nacogdoches and the surrounding region of pine forest, residents found chunks of debris. A small tank rested on a runway. A steel rod with silver bolts was roped off behind yellow police tape in a yard. A piece of metal rested in a bank parking lot.
Authorities urged the public to report any debris but not touch it for fear of contamination from toxic substances. The Army sent in helicopters and soldiers to locate and guard bits of wreckage, which could be pivotal in determining the cause of the disaster.
In Hemphill, near the Louisiana state line, hospital employee Mike Gibbs reported finding what appeared to be a charred torso, thigh bone and skull on a rural road near what was believed to be other debris. Billy Smith, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman, confirmed the find.
The Columbia broke apart in flames 200,000 feet over Texas, killing all seven astronauts just minutes before they were to glide to a landing in Florida.
Debris has been tracked in a 500-square-mile area but could be spread over a region three times that, said James Crow, director of the Emergency Geospacial Mapping Center at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.
As authorities rushed to secure pieces of the shuttle, residents gathered to get a glimpse.
"Everybody's treating this like it's an alien crash," said Phillip Russell, 17.
Jim Stutzman of Nacogdoches - 135 miles northeast of Houston - found a 9-inch long, 2-inch wide piece of metal in his yard. "It has heat burns, melted metal and some of the grass burned into it when it fell," he said.
Jeff Hancock, a 29-year-old dentist, said a foot-long metal bracket smashed through the roof of his office.
"It's all over," said James Milford, owner of Milford Barber shop in downtown Nacogdoches. "There are several little pieces, some parts of machinery."
Dozens of residents gathered in front of Rice High School, about 40 miles southeast of Dallas, to look at what appeared to be a charred piece of tile from the space shuttle. The area around the piece was blocked off with tape.
"It's just kind of an event that doesn't happen every day," said Rhonda Martin, 32, of Kemp. "It's going to go down in history." Martin held her toddler son while her husband took photos.
Behind a bank in Nacogdoches, flowers were laid out - including seven pink roses - in a makeshift memorial as residents gathered around a taped off area that contained a 3-by-3 piece of metal.
Ed Rohner, Nacogdoches airport manager, said some type of tank ended up on a runway, and debris was scattered along the airport entrance road.
Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell said debris was reported to have fallen around the towns of Jacksonville, Palestine, Rusk and Athens in east Texas.
"We've had people bring pieces of it up here to the office," he said. "We certainly want to discourage that.
Debris also scattered in western Louisiana, including some pieces that reportedly dropped into Toledo Bend reservoir on the Texas border, threatening water supplies.
"I heard the piece coming down through the air. It sounded like it was fluttering," said Elbie Bradley, 69, who was fishing on reservoir.
Two F-16s from the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth were dispatched to Tyler to map the debris field.
Helicopters and soldiers from Fort Hood in central Texas were also dispatched, a spokesman said. Members of the National Guard were protecting the debris.
Authorities ordered people to stay 100 yards away from the debris because of contamination fears. However, a number of Nacogdoches residents were picking up pieces and turning them in to law enforcement officers.
G.W. Jones, assistant administrator at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital, said 27 people had come to the hospital seeking information after touching pieces of debris. He had no reports of any adverse effects so far.
"We're telling them to just wash their hands and any other body parts that may have come in contact with the debris," Jones said. "The first thing is not to touch it. If they do, they should contact their local ER or family doctor for any follow up."
Shuttles have long used a chemical called hydrazine to run their auxiliary power units. Hydrazine, a colorless liquid with an ammonia-like odor, is a toxic chemical and can cause harm to anyone who contacts it.
Much of the area where debris has been reported lies in the Piney Woods timber region of east Texas, which is rugged and densely wooded in places. The Texas Forest Service was helping local officials plot debris locations on a map.
NASA set up telephone number for people who find debris to call: 281- 483-3388.
|Sat Feb 1, 9:35 PM ET|
A video image of a helmet that dropped into a yard in Norwood Community, Texas from the space shuttle Columbia is seen Feb. 1, 2002. Many parts of the shuttle, along with human remains, were found in the area. NASA (news - web sites) officials later removed the helmet. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters