Melissa Mathews/Allard Beutel
September 9, 2005
NASA Plans for Shuttle Work Post Katrina
NASA has accounted for all civil servants and most contractors at two facilities impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Several hundred contractor employees from Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, have not yet been contacted, and efforts are still under way to locate them. Taking care of employees is still the priority of recovery efforts, officials said Thursday. The agency is evaluating the storm's effect on the Space Shuttle Program. Top officials say it is too soon to determine how the storm will impact planning for Space Shuttle missions next year.
"We will always go with what the technical facts tell us," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in response to speculation about the next Space Shuttle launch date. "Right now, we are trying to gather those facts."
NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC), a sprawling facility on the Mississippi Gulf Coast where Space Shuttle Main Engines are tested, and Michoud, where Space Shuttle external fuel tanks are manufactured east of New Orleans, are in the storm-ravaged areas.
Griffin spoke to agency employees after touring the installations. He praised workers who oversaw agency facilities during and after the storm. "You can't buy the kind of dedication that I saw down there from our folks for money, for any amount of money," he said. "It is not about salary or about holding a job. It is about dedication to the program."
Griffin also said the agency is committed to maintaining long-term operations at Stennis and Michoud as the communities around them rebuild after the storm.
Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for Space Operations, and Bill Parsons, the senior agency official in charge of the hurricane recovery effort, told reporters Thursday facilities at SSC and Michoud suffered some significant damage but are largely intact. Inspections revealed the potential for only minimal damage to flight hardware. They said the larger issues are the large number of workers who lost their homes and transportation challenges due to flooded roads and washed-out bridges leading to both facilities.
"Our facilities are in pretty good shape, but we have to see what the workforce wants to do," Gerstenmaier said. "We're going to figure out the right thing to do."
A preliminary estimate indicates damage to NASA facilities and other costs associated with the hurricane could reach $1.1 billion, with an estimated $600 million in costs at Stennis and $500 million at Michoud.
Agency management is looking for ways to accommodate displaced workers and their families. Officials are also considering ways to use other NASA facilities to perform some work normally done at Stennis and Michoud.
Both Stennis and Michoud are closed to normal operations. There are plans to open Stennis in a limited capacity next week. Both facilities are operating as staging grounds for federal agencies conducting rescue and recovery efforts in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. The number of relief workers at Stennis could soon number several thousand.
"We have one heck of an operation going on here, and I'm glad I could be of some help," Parsons said.
Transcripts of remarks today by Griffin, Gerstenmaier and Parsons will be available today on NASA's Web site. For information about NASA's response to Hurricane Katrina, visit:
For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit:
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