Katrina Impact – Griffin Responds

by Chris Bergin

NASA administrator Michael Griffin, in a speech to agency employees, expressed concern for those lost and dislocated in Katrina’s wake, and hope for the restoration of operations at the Michoud and Stennis facilities on the outskirts of New Orleans.

Both NASA facilities, which found themselves in the direct path of Katrina’s devastation, play key roles in the Space Shuttle Program.

“The Stennis Space Center and Michoud Assembly Facility have, as facilities, suffered substantial damage, and we will, as stewards of these facilities, be doing everything we can to stabilize them, and to restore them to service,” Griffin said.

The Stennis Space Center lies twenty miles to the northeast of New Orleans in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The facility, NASA’s site for testing and certifying the Shuttle’s Main Engine, is linked to the city by a stretch of interstate crossing Lake Pontchartrain which has been seriously damaged.

The Michoud Assembly Facility, located in east New Orleans, is the site used by Lockheed Martin to manufacture the Shuttle’s External Tank. Currently, three Shuttle External Tanks are housed at Cape Canaveral, Florida while over 10 tanks – in various stages of construction – appear to be in good shape in Michoud’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

Together, the two facilities employee over 3,500 NASA civil servants and private contractors.

Griffin named Bill Parsons, former Stennis Director and present Space Shuttle Program Manager, to direct the recover efforts at NASA.

“My office is coordinating with Bill to ensure that he has all needed authority and support. Bill has unimpeded access to Rex Geveden, NASA Associate Administrator, and to me,” Griffin said. Griffin also addressed the plight of dislocated Stennis and Michoud employees, many of whom are to be relocated to other NASA centers for the time being.

“Our people have been terribly hurt. I understand that perhaps more than half of the people who work at [Stennis] and [Michoud] have been left homeless by the hurricane. Their lives have been disrupted in a way that, I hope, the rest of us will never be able to comprehend. Griffin continued:

“We need to work to relocate people temporarily, to provide work stations and living accommodations at other NASA locations, so that our folks can return to work as they begin to restore their lives. We will also be doing everything possible to make sure that crucial payroll functions are maintained for all employees so that our people’s financial disruption is not made worse by the lack of access to their money.

Already, around fifty Lockheed Martin employees and their families are being relocated to the Cape, where some work on the External Tank will continue.

“My heart goes out to all the people affected by this hurricane,” added Griffin. “I will be visiting Stennis and the Michoud Assembly Facility soon to talk with our people.”

The Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama will received about 200 dislocated employees from the two facilities, who will continue their work there until operations at Stennis and Michoud can be restored.

A 10-megabyte communications link has already been established between Marshall and Stennis. This interim system will transmit voice and data messages, aiding in the recovery process until the main communications system is restored. Marshall will be sending three generators to Michoud and Stennis for back-up power.

For more images of the NASA facility after the Hurricane, click here:

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