Nov. 17, 2011 – COLLEGE STATION, Texas – A NASA astronaut will visit Texas Forest Service headquarters next week to thank the group for its work in the recovery effort after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
NASA astronaut Col. Tim Kopra worked closely with Texas Forest Service, a member of the Texas A&M University System, in 2003 when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over East Texas during re-entry. All seven crew members died, and an extensive ground search was conducted to recover fragments from the shuttle module. Texas Forest Service’s Lone Star Incident Management Team led the four-month process – marking the first time a state agency headed up a recovery effort for a federal disaster.
When Kopra was selected for his first space flight a few years later, he wanted to take with him something symbolizing Texas Forest Service as a symbol of appreciation. Due to weight limits and space requirements, he chose an agency patch – the symbol that adorns Texas Forest Service uniforms. On Monday, he’ll return the patch that accompanied him to space.
The event is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, at Texas Forest Service headquarters in the John B. Connally Building, 301 Tarrow, College Station. The presentation will take place in Room 318, and media is invited to attend.
Charles “Boo” Walker, training coordinator for Texas Forest Service, said Kopra’s gesture is a great honor to the agency, particularly for those who were involved in the shuttle recovery.
“Several of us developed friendships with the astronauts during the shuttle recovery operations and we have kept in touch through the years,” Walker said. “Because of the tremendous efforts and sacrifices Texas Forest Service made to help NASA return to flight, Tim wanted to honor us by carrying something into space that represented our agency.”
Kopra served as a flight engineer for Expedition 20 aboard the International Space Station. He launched on July 15, 2009, and returned aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on Sept. 11, 2009. The West Point graduate and U.S. Army aviator performed one space walk on his mission and conducted numerous science experiments.
Charles “Boo” Walker, Training Coordinator
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