NASA Recovers Mysterious Sphere Found in North Texas
Has Texas Drought Exposed Shuttle Columbia Piece?
A piece of debris from NASA’s space shuttle Columbia has been discovered in Texas, eight years after the 2003 disaster that destroyed the spacecraft and killed its seven-astronaut crew during re-entry, NASA officials confirmed Tuesday.
The debris was discovered last week in eastern Texas. It is a round aluminum power reactant storage and distribution tank from Columbia, which disintegrated over Texas as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere near the end of a 16-day science mission.
The tank was discovered in an exposed area of Lake Nacogdoches, in Nacogdoches, Texas, about 160 miles northeast of Houston. [Photos: Remembering NASA's Shuttle Columbia Disaster]
“The only reason it’s exposed is because there’s a drought going on and the tank was under the lake,” Lisa Malone, a NASA spokeswoman at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, told SPACE.com. “The tank itself is full of mud.”
Nacogdoches police informed NASA of the find and sent pictures for identification. NASA engineers who work on the shuttle’s power reactant storage and distribution systems were able to confirm the piece belonged to Columbia. [NASA's Shuttle Program In Pictures: A Tribute]
“One of the guys had been here more than 30 years and recognized it, and said, ‘That’s one of the tanks,’” Malone said.
The piece was one of 16 tanks on the shuttle that stored supercold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The spherical tank, about 40 inches (1 meter) in diameter, will eventually be shipped back to Kennedy Space Center, where NASA stores all the collected debris from Columbia in a climate controlled area in the giant Vehicle Assembly Building.