[meteorite-list] NASA Investigates Possible Shuttle Debris Found In California
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 10:18:25 2004
NASA Investigates Possible Shuttle Debris Found In Southland
Man Initially Thought Item Was Trash
February 5, 2003
LOS ANGELES -- A resident of Joshua Tree in the high desert of
Southeastern California reported finding a piece of debris on a
driveway that might have come from the disintegrating
space shuttle Columbia.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department contacted NASA
about the debris. The Sheriff's Department is holding the 4-inch
square object described as looking like a piece of exposed film. It
has foil-like material on one side and apparent burn marks.
Bob Beggs found the item on Saturday in a circle in the dirt
after he ran over it in a driveway. "Whatever it was did at least
fall out of the sky ... I thought it was a piece of garbage," Beggs
NASA has said the object has distinctive features consistent
with a camera on the shuttle.
"As you can see its somewhat burned in the center... A deputy
went to the house and agreed with them that it sure enough
could have been from the space shuttle, took possession of it,
according to what NASA told us," Chip Patterson, of the San
Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, said.
Authorities are also investigating the possibility that the
object could be live ammunition from shooting exercises at
nearby Twentynine Palms, Calif.
NASA investigators have been sent to California in an
expanding search for possible space shuttle debris to
determine if the craft may have begun breaking up during the
fiery re-entry that preceded Columbia's disintegration over
There was no immediate confirmation of any actual shuttle
debris in California, where an astronomer reported Saturday
that Columbia appeared to leave debris trails in its wake as it
raced through the black sky high over Owens Valley. An
amateur video shot in northwestern Nevada also appeared to
record such an event.
NASA told the California Highway Patrol it was sending a debris
investigative team to Northern California and another to
Southern California, CHP spokesman Steve Kohler said Tuesday.
"They will be looking at two items that have been collected by
local law enforcement," he said.
Michael Kostelnik, a NASA spaceflight office deputy, said earlier
in Washington, D.C., that space agency teams were being sent to
California and Arizona to check out reports that possible wing
material had been found.
"Debris early in the flight path would be critical because that
material would obviously be near the start of the events" as the
shuttle crossed the country from west to east, Kostelnik said at
NASA asked the CHP on Monday to alert police statewide to
watch for debris.
Various reports of people finding unverified items surfaced.
A small piece of something was found in a Target parking lot in
Sacramento and seized by the Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Lou
"We got notified from the CHP to keep an eye out. We're just
kind of following what they're doing," Fatur said.
At Soquel, on the north end of Monterey Bay, a state parks
official took pictures of an object on the beach and bagged it
for NASA, a Santa Cruz County emergency services dispatcher said.
NASA asked state park rangers to hold the object -- an aluminum
cylinder just over 1 foot long with inch markings on it -- until
space agency officials could retrieve it Wednesday morning, state
parks spokesman Steve Capps said.
Firefighters collected a burnt object about 4 inches long at a
Soquel home, said the homeowner, who requested anonymity.
There were no conclusions about either object, said Steve Robbins
of the county Sheriff's Department.
In another development, radar data from NASA's Dryden Flight
Research Facility at Edwards Air Force Base was sent to NASA's
Goddard Space Flight Center for review, said Alan Brown, a
spokesman at the Mojave Desert site. Dryden's radar tracked
Columbia from the Pacific horizon to New Mexico, and that data
would likely be coordinated with Federal Aviation Administration
Doppler radar data to see what it showed, Brown said.
The intriguing California observation of Columbia's descent was
made by Anthony Beasley, an astronomer at the California Institute
of Technology's Owens Valley Radio Observatory east of the Sierra
Video taken from the Lick Observatory in San Jose also showed
flares of light and what appeared to be parts breaking off the
shuttle. It was taken by amateur astronomer Rick Baldridge.
Beasley said he was contacted by a NASA official on Tuesday.
"They're just starting to integrate all the data they've received,"
Beasley, his wife and mother-in-law watched Columbia from the
driveway of his home in the remote town of Bishop. He reported
seeing flashes and trailing objects, including one final
distinct event in which something burning appeared to separate
from the shuttle.
Beasley, program manager for the Combined Array for research in
Millimeter-wave Astronomy at the Caltech observatory, wrote a
report on his observation two hours later. It included details of
his location, visibility conditions and the shuttle's position in
the sky using approximate degrees of azimuth and elevation. He
also estimated the duration of each flash or "pulsing" and the
change in brightness.
Received on Wed 05 Feb 2003 03:17:42 PM PST