NASA says object found in East Texas lake is from doomed shuttle



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Posted on August 2, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 4 at 2:59 AM

Lake Nacogdoches

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Just eight days after the end of the space shuttle program, a NASA spokeswoman says a piece of the space shuttle Columbia has been found in a drought-stricken Texas lake.

The shuttle broke apart and burned in February 2003, killing seven people and scattering shuttle pieces across East Texas.

NASA spokeswoman Lisa Malone said Tuesday the spherical object, 40 inches in diameter, was a tank and part of the shuttle's electrical power distribution system. It was found along the shrinking shoreline of Lake Nacogdoces.

It held the hydrazine fuel that powered Columbia's thrusters to change direction in space.

On the day of the crash, Bill Sadler saw hundreds of splashes on the surface of nearby Toledo Bend Lake. "And I knew then it wasn't frogs or fish — it was parts of Columbia falling into the water," he said.

The hydrazine tank in the shuttle is located in the aft, giving it a higher probability of surviving intact.

"As we move forward into these commercial enterprises, we need to pay attention to detail and make sure that we can deal with this environment we find," said former NASA executive George Abbey.

Malone said the tank will be shipped to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where other Columbia debris is stored — a spherical tombstone with a message for the future.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.