Aluminum Power Reactant Storage and Distribution tank from shuttle Columbia
exposed by drought conditions in East Texas. Photo Credit/Collectspace and
Nacogdoches Police Department.
The prolonged Texas drought has exposed a spherical Power Reactant Storage and Distribution tank from shuttle Columbia on the banks of Lake Nacogdoches close to the Lone Star state's border with Louisiana, space agency officials said Tuesday.
Columbia disintegrated during atmospheric re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003, following a 16-day orbital research mission. The tragedy, blamed on an undetected launch day breach of the orbiter's heat shield, claimed the lives of all seven astronauts.
Debris from the break up was recovered from rural North Texas through western Louisiana in the weeks after the loss.
The 40-inch wide, mud-filled aluminum tank was spotted last week on the recently exposed northern shores of the East Texas reservoir and reported to NASA by local law enforcement authorities, said Kennedy Space Center spokeswoman Lisa Malone.
Severe drought conditions in the region have dropped Lake Nacogdoches to less than 60 percent full, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Once recovered, the tank will be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center, where it will join previous Columbia debris stored in the Vehicle Assembly Building.
The agency is discussing how it will pull the bulky tank from the exposed lake bed. In the meantime, the debris does not pose an environmental threat, said Malone.
Columbia lifted off Jan. 16, 2003 with an extended duration orbiter mission complement of 18 PRSD tanks for the fuel cell production of electrical power over the long flight.