Many people may not realize it, but Hurricane Katrina has a had a profound effect on the “NASA family.” With the Stennis Space Center in coastal Mississippi, and the Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans, many employees lost their homes and the facilities sustained damage. From an e-mail distributed to us at work:
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we fortunately have no reports of any injuries or deaths among NASA employees, contractors or family members at our Stennis Space Center and Michoud Assembly Facility. Based on early assessments, both locations did suffer building damage from the storm with no immediate indications of damage to flight hardware.
We also are grateful that the Stennis Space Center provided shelter to 4,000 people — NASA employees, contractors and family members and stranded local residents — as the hurricane moved through. The Stennis Space Center is still being used as a shelter location, and the center’s parking lot is being used by Federal Emergency Management Agency officials as a staging area for recovery operations. The Stennis Space Center and Michoud Assembly Facility will be closed for business while recovery efforts continue.
Currently, Emergency Operations Centers at the affected centers and Headquarters are now open and will remain open during business hours as needed. As emergency crews begin the difficult work of clearing debris and restoring power and other services to the facilities on site, we also are assessing how resources across the entire Agency can best be used to offer support to the Stennis Space Center and Michoud Assembly Facility. The Marshall Space Flight Center is already helping tremendously by serving as a hub for offsite emergency procurement activities. Two helicopter flights from Marshall will deliver communication equipment and other supplies to the facilities today.”
I have also heard that at the Michoud Assembly Facility, which is where the enormous orange external tanks for the Space Shuttle are made, that approximately 60% of workers have lost their homes. Possible plans include bringing them and their families here to Florida and setting up a temporary place for them to work on the two external tanks we have here, stored in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Normally the tanks are made at their facility in Louisiana and are shipped by barge here to Florida. The two tanks we have were slated to be returned to Michoud for rework, but now it seems that a better option would be to bring the workers here.