Monday, February 3, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Remains of Columbia astronauts found

Washington, February 2
Human remains believed to be those of the seven astronauts, including India-born Kalpana Chawla, on board the ill-fated American shuttle Columbia have been located in Texas and Louisiana even as investigators struggled to establish the cause of the breakup of the spacecraft minutes before its landing.

“I can confirm human remains from the space shuttle Columbia have been found in the debris” in Hemphill, about 180 miles from Dallas where a lot of twisted metal from Columbia have been found, a spokesman of the local police said, but gave no details.

Two young boys were reported to have found a charred human leg on their farm in Sabine county.

A hospital employee on his way to work reported finding of a what appeared to be charred torso, thigh bone on a rural road.

Body parts believed to be from the astronauts have been recovered near Hemphill in eastern Texas near the state’s border with Louisiana Texas along with a helmet and uniform badges.

The remains have been sent for DNA testing, a BBC report said.

Along with the remains an intact mission patch, with the names of the seven Columbia crew members was also discovered.

Search for debris and human remains in the Columbia shuttle tragedy that killed India-born American astronaut Kalpana Chawla and her six colleagues continued today with investigators struggling to determine the cause of one of the worst space mishaps that have sent shock waves across the world.

US Space Agency NASA has begun internal and external independent investigations into the Columbia mishap in which all crew members, including first-time Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, perished, when the shuttle broke into pieces in the air over Texas last night, just 16 minutes before its scheduled landing at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

The shuttle debris rained down over hundreds of square miles of Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, smashing a rooftop and splashing into a reservoir. A piece of a tile fell within 75 miles of President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford.

There were no reports of any injuries from the falling debris. The army has sent helicopters and soldiers to locate the debris and guard the wreckage of the shuttle.

The US authorities urged the people to report finding any debris, but not to touch it for fear of contamination from toxic substances.

Within minutes of Columbia’s loss, computer records were impounded together with documentation relating to the pre-flight preparation for the shuttle. The information could be crucial in discovering what went wrong with the shuttle.

NASA lost contact with the shuttle as it hurried over Texas, and the space agency has suspended shuttle flights until answers are found about how and why the disaster occurred.

“My promise to the crew and the crew families ... is we’ll find the cause. We’ll fix it, and we’ll move on,” Mr Bill Readdy, NASA associate administrator for spaceflight, told a press conference. Paying tributes to the “courage and daring” of the dead astronauts, President Bush said, “The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today.” He announced to the grieving nation that despite the loss of Columbia, “our journey into space will go on.”

The President returned to the White House from a weekend stay at the Camp David presidential retreat on learning of the Columbia tragedy.

Israeli Ambassador to the USA Daniel Ayalon arrived in Houston yesterday with the mourning family of Colonel Ramon, his country’s first astronaut, saying that it was “a very tragic day for Israel and America.” He said he and Ramon’s family were appreciative of the “outpouring of condolences” expressed by US officials. “We thank NASA very much for the sensitivity and compassion that they showed with the family and with us.”

He also expressed his country’s condolences to the American people and the families of the six other astronauts killed.

Chief flight director Milt Heflin said one of eight sensors sent a reading that the astronauts saw on their cockpit displays. The astronauts mentioned a problem with tyre pressure, apparently following their usual procedure in acknowledging a reading of some concern, Mr Heflin said. PTI



Experts had warned of lapses

Washington, February 2
US Government auditors and experts had voiced concern about lapses in oversight, budget allocation and deferred safety improvements for NASA’s aging fleet of space shuttles ahead of the breakup of space shuttle Columbia.

Last April, the Chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, Mr Richard Blomberg, warned Congress that NASA’s management of the shuttle programme had drawn “the strongest safety concerns the panel has voiced in 15 years. I have never been as worried for space shuttle safety as I am right now.”

In the background to the investigation into the causes which led to the disintegration of the ill-fated Columbia shuttle yesterday, there would also be nagging doubts whether budget cuts had overlooked safety concerns. PTI


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