Official confirmation has come from NASA that debris revealed by prolonged drought in Texas belongs to the Space Shuttle Columbia. The wreckage was unearthed in the East Texas city of Nacogdoches in 2003 after the spacecraft broke apart as it was re-entering Earth's atmosphere.
According to NASA, the object, found in a local lake, is a tank that used to provide power and water for shuttle missions. The object, which was about four feet in diameter, held the cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen necessary for the vehicle's fuel cells to produce electricity in space.
NASA spokesperson Lisa Malone said the object was one of the 16 tanks on board Columbia as part of the orbiter's electrical distribution system.
"It's definitely ours," said Malone. She further added that the space agency is trying to recover the item and it has also developed a plan for that. However, the process may take weeks. "We're looking into whether we'll send a team out or local authorities can," Malone said.
Local authorities said that the object was found after the water in Lake Nacogdoches moved away because of the drought.
"Due to the drought, Lake Nacogdoches is at an approximately nine-foot low," Reuters quoted Greg Sowell, a police sergeant in the city of Nacogdoches. "There has been an unusually large area of the lake which is normally underwater which has been exposed."
The Space Shuttle Columbia broke up during its return to Earth on Feb. 1, 2003. It fell to pieces just minutes before it had been due to land at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida. More than 84,000 pieces of wreckage from Columbia have been found in some 2,000 locations across eastern Texas and western Louisiana, including in Nacogdoches, Reuters reported.
The seven crew members, who were killed in the disaster, include commander Rick Husband, 45, pilot Willie McCool, 41, and crewmates David Brown, 46, Kalpana Chawla, 41, Laurel Clark, 41, Michael Anderson, 43, and Ilan Ramon, 48.