Twenty employees from Langley Research Centers Structures and Materials
and Acoustics, Aerodynamics and Aerothermodynamics competencies helped
in the search for Columbia debris in east Texas: (standing, left to right)
John A. Loughlin, Lynn D. Curtis, Gerald A. Alexander, Rodney D. Russell,
Scott Runnells, Scott Young, Brian C. Cheshire, Michael L. Walker, Jeffrey
J. Conover, Charles A. Poupard, George F. Palko and Victor E. Jenkins;
and (kneeling, left to right) Arthur G. Ritter, Jaye A. Moen, Glenn A.
Brehm, Cheri L. Bailey, Tom Walker, Robert Patterson Jr., Savior J. Giuliana
and George Cowley.
Inset: Glenn Brehm, assigned to Corsicana, brought home some of the Texas-sized
briars common in the search area.
by Jeff Caplan
Search Of ...
Langley Employees Assist In Debris Collection
By JIM ROBERTS
Researcher News editor
The search for debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia was the largest
land search ever conducted a combined effort of 1,500 people from
NASA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. and Texas Forest Services, not to
mention local and state agencies, Texas landowners and volunteers from
across the United States.
Add to that list 20 employees from Langley Research Centers Structures
and Materials and Acoustics, Aerodynamics and Aerothermodynamics competencies:
Gerald A. Alexander, Cheri L. Bailey, Glenn A. Brehm, Brian C. Cheshire,
Jeffrey J. Conover, George Cowley, Lynn D. Curtis, Savior J. Giuliana,
Victor E. Jenkins, John A. Loughlin, Jaye A. Moen, George F. Palko, Robert
Patterson Jr., Charles A. Poupard, Arthur G. Ritter, Scott Runnells, Rodney
D. Russell Michael L. Walker, Tom Walker and Scott Young.
Their involvement was coordinated by Mark Shuart, head of Langleys
Structures and Materials Competency, upon invitation from Johnson Space
Center. Shuart reponded by sending teams of technicians. The Langley
technicians have an insightful understanding of the make-up of aerospace
systems that we tried to tap into for the debris collection teams,
Langley employees traveled to Texas in four-person teams, each person
assigned to an Incident Command Post in the towns of Hemphill,
Corsicana, Palestine or Nacogdoches for 10 to 14 days. Their assignment:
to assist search teams combing a 2,400-square-mile grid for
pieces of the Columbia, which broke up during its re-entry on Feb. 1.
Specifically, they were there to determine what was a shuttle part and
what wasnt. Anything that was was logged using GPS coordinates,
then bagged and transported to Kennedy Space Center.
NASA recently announced that more than 78,000 pounds of material
about 37 percent of the shuttle, by weight had been delivered to
Kennedy for use in the mishap investigation.
All of the employees have stories to tell. Brehm, assigned to Corsicana,
found a piece of a wing tip, and Poupards team found food packets
color-coded for the different astronauts. Curtis team in Hemphill
found a shuttle tire and mission patches. It really kind of hits
home at that point, he said.
The employees worked seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. until sundown
approximately 6 p.m. but the days were much longer, considering
some had to drive as many as 35 miles to get to the nearest hotel. They
wore hard hats and protective clothing and and carried everything they
needed for the day including water and a 2,500-calorie bag lunch
in a backpack.
Temperatures ranged from the mid-30s to low-90s during the 10 weeks the
employees were deployed, which made things even more difficult. Through
the work was physical and conditions challenging all the team members
said they would do it again if asked.
Brehm said he walked eight to 12 miles a day. I lost eight pounds,
he said, despite eating like a horse. (He named his walking
stick Wilson, like the volleyball in the movie Castaway, and
put a notch in it for every day he was in the field.)
worked on a special operations team in Palestine that used GPS coordinates
to find specific pieces of debris that had been spotted from helicopters,
but she also had to traverse some rough terrain. I did very well,
she said. I learned a lot about GPS and how to maneuver through
the woods, find the pieces and still get back out!
Many of the team members worked alongside Native Americans who have an
employment agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to fight fires or respond
to efforts such as the Columbia debris recovery. Their awareness of the
terrain helped in the search and assured the safety of the team members
and exposed the Langley employees to different cutlures.
The diversity down there was just incredible, Curtis said.
It was an amazing experience.
The employees also ended up serving as ambassadors for NASA,
giving out NASA pins and other souvenirs and highlighting the Agencys
accomplishments, even in the wake of disaster.
Thats a tribute in itself to the astronauts, Poupard
said. What they would want you to do is make a good thing out of
Brehm echoed that sentiment, saying everyone involved in the search was
motivated by the potential of returning to flight. The quicker we
can find these parts, the quicker we can get back into space, he
said. There was a mission, there was a purpose other than just finding
Inset: Langley employee Rodney D. Russell models the protective clothing
worn by members of the debris search teams: boots, long-sleeve pants and
chaps, protective shirts, gloves, safety glasses and a hardhat. They carried
everything they needed for the day including water and a 2,500-calorie
bag lunch in a backpack.
courtesy of Charles Poupard
Charles Poupard (above), head of Langleys Applied Technologies and
Testing Branch, was deployed from March 2-12 to the Incident Command Post
in Hemphill, Texas. He brought back the following photos (below), which
are indicative of the various types of terrain the search team members
worked in. For more photos, visit the Office
of External Affairs Special Events Photo Album.