NASA Television reported Saturday morning that communications were lost with Shuttle Columbia at approximately 8 a.m. EST over north-central Texas. Columbia was at approximately 200,000 feet altitude. Debris has been sighted in north central Texas. Search and rescue has been dispatched in Dallas-Fort Worth area.
News media covering the Space Shuttle should stay tuned to NASA Television, which is broadcast on AMC-2, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85 degrees West longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz.
JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Houston, Texas (CNN) # The space shuttle Columbia, with seven astronauts aboard, broke up as it descended over central Texas Saturday toward a planned landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Police in Nacogdoches, Texas, reported “numerous pieces of debris” both inside the city limits and in Nacogdoches County.
“Information is really sketchy,” Det. Greg Sowell said. “We want people to stay away, because some of it could be toxic.”
Sowell said officers and city and county employees were being dispatched to stand by the debris until the arrival of FBI and NASA representatives.
Residents as far east as Shreveport, Louisiana, reported seeing and feeling an apparent explosion.
Search-and-rescue teams from the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area were alerted and residents were urged to stay away from any possible debris from the shuttle, which may be hazardous, said NASA public affairs officer James Hartfield.
Shuttle commander Rick D. Husband, pilot William C. McCool, payload commander Michael P. Anderson, mission specialists David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark and Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, were on board.
President Bush was briefed at Camp David, Maryland, and was planning to cut short his stay at the retreat and return to the White House.