our government sure is good at wasting money
Columbia to get a burial site
Dallas Morning News
Feb. 10, 2003 12:00 AM
DALLAS - When the poking, analyzing and reconstruction are finished, the space shuttle Columbia and all of its parts won't simply go in the trash.
The orbiter will have a final resting place, just as the Challenger did after it exploded above the Atlantic Ocean in 1986, killing all seven crew members.
Like the astronauts aboard them, space shuttles also have their graves.
Once the Challenger's parts were no longer needed for the investigation, its debris, 215,000 pounds of material, were lowered by a crane, box by box, section by section, into a pair of abandoned missile silos at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next to the Kennedy Space Center.
The silos, unused since 1970, are sandwiched between two active launch pads, just a few hundred yards from the ocean.
Huge concrete caps top the silos to preserve evidence of the crash, and each silo is 90 feet deep and 12 feet in diameter, more than enough room to fit the stacked shuttle debris.
The Challenger burial, which occurred about a year after the crash, was cathartic for those involved in the salvage and investigation.
"It's good to put this behind us," said Air Force Col. Edward O'Connor, who headed the salvage operation that recovered about 50 percent of the shuttle. "And it's great to look to the future because we're going to get started flying again."
The charred shell of the Apollo 1 capsule in which three astronauts died in 1967 was to have been shipped from Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and buried on top of the Challenger, but NASA dropped that idea in 1990.
No one knows yet whether the debris of the Columbia will join that of its predecessor, buried deep beneath the Florida sand.
At these beginning stages of the investigation, the debris is being stored at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and eventually will be transported to Cape Canaveral for analysis.