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  STS-107: Shuttle Columbia unrecovered debris

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Author Topic:   STS-107: Shuttle Columbia unrecovered debris
Fezman92
Member

Posts: 1030
From: New Jersey, USA
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 07-17-2011 04:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What are the chances that there is still Columbia debris still out there, scattered throughout Texas that no one has found (or they did find it and are keeping it)?

saturn1b
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Posts: 132
From: Westcliffe, CO
Registered: Jun 2006

posted 07-17-2011 05:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for saturn1b   Click Here to Email saturn1b     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm guessing that the chances are pretty good that there are quite a few pieces still undiscovered as well as some in private hands. Any other thoughts from anyone?

JFS61
Member

Posts: 87
From: Bryan, Texas USA
Registered: Jun 2005

posted 07-17-2011 05:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JFS61     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The odds that a large amount of debris would still remain undiscovered in the East Texas-Louisiana area are quite high, as it is a heavily wooded and sparsely populated rural area. Debris would have become easily and quickly lost in the thick and fast growing vegetation, not to mention any pieces that might have fallen into stock ponds or creeks.

I for one didn't envy any of those having to search for the debris - They were quite literally looking for needles in the proverbial haystack. In fact, I surprised that they were able to find as much as they did.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 29337
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-17-2011 05:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Texas neighborhoods where a lot of the debris fell exerted a good deal of public pressure, scorning any attempt to save any souvenirs. To this day, they take a great deal of pride in the role they served in the recovery efforts, and continue to turn over found pieces to NASA.

That's not to say that there aren't maybe some pieces being squirreled away, but should they ever see the light of day in or around these towns, the owners will be in for a rude awakening.

As mentioned, there is little doubt there is debris buried in the thick forest and/or marsh lands. If I recall correctly, only two of the main engine powerheads were recovered, one being the easternmost-recovered pieces of debris from Columbia. I believe both were found in Louisiana, where the third is probably buried as well.

Jay Chladek
Member

Posts: 2267
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 07-18-2011 10:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I visited Hemphil, TX in April on my way home from Houston and checked out the Remembering Columbia museum (which I highly recommend by the way). I asked that very question.

According to the person I talked to, a neighbor of hers was getting ready to sell his house about three years ago and was having some repairs done to it (including a leaky roof). He went into the attic to move some boxes when he noticed one box of pictures had a hole in it, he moved the box and noticed a hole in the floorboards, then looked up and tracked back to a hole in the ceiling he could see daylight through. In the hole in the floorboards was a bolt. He called NASA and they recovered the bolt, which indeed came from Columbia.

The woods in that part of Texas are so dense I wouldn't recommend treasure hunting at all. It is due to the very methodical approach of the US Forestry Service and volunteers that they managed to recover what they did. They literally did a grid search at arms length from one another and walked through some of the densest woods I have ever seen (and I wanted to see it for myself, which is why I went there). They would stop the line when a piece of debris was found, tagged it, marked the GPS coordinates and either recovered it or left it for a followup team to recover (depending on the size).

Indeed Sabine county is also proud that their residents turned what they recovered in while some counties to the west had people who were not quite as honorable. There are indeed good people still out there in the world.

LM-12
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Posts: 1064
From: Ontario, Canada
Registered: Oct 2010

posted 08-02-2011 03:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What percentage of Columbia has been recovered to date, and how does that compare to the Challenger recovery efforts?

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 29337
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-02-2011 03:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Drought exposes debris from space shuttle Columbia in Texas:
To date, about 38-40 percent of Columbia and its payload has been recovered. The remainder either disintegrated as it reentered or is still where it landed across Texas and in Louisiana.
And from our January 2011 article about Challenger and Columbia debris:
In what the U.S. Coast Guard categorized at the time as its "largest surface search in which they had participated," about 120 tons of Challenger wreckage were raised off the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. The retrieval accounted for 30 percent of Challenger's total structure, including about 75 percent of its crew cabin and surrounding fuselage.

LM-12
Member

Posts: 1064
From: Ontario, Canada
Registered: Oct 2010

posted 08-02-2011 06:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for those links Robert. I gather from the Smithsonian article that the Columbia investigation was the more difficult of the two because the break-up happened at entry interface and is less fully-understood.

All times are CT (US)

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