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Fri, Feb 21, 2003

Shuttle Nose Gear Found

Toledo Bend Reservoir, near Hemphill (TX) on the Louisiana state line, has given up another treasure from Space Shuttle Columbia: the nose gear.

Residents found the gear Tuesday and notified divers, who went after it. It was found mostly intact, said NASA folk, who identified it to the public on Wednesday.

Whether the nose gear, eight feet long and with the wheels still attached, will prove relevant to the investigation of the February 1 breakup is largely academic; the good news is, every piece might shed some light on the disaster; and the recovery shows that good citizens are doing all they can, to help in that monumental, multi-state effort.

Last week, the same reservoir yielded a shuttle brake cylinder.

The man-made body of water presents a particularly daunting obstacle for divers. The muddy water provides maybe arm's length visibility; and the area itself, flooded on purpose, is littered with debris left behind -- the detritus of homes and farms that were sacrificed when the area was plunged under water. With poor visibility and so much manmade junk on the bottom, dive teams are expected to stay in the area for six more weeks.

FMI: www.spaceflight.nasa.gov

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