Key sections of 'Columbia' are found by disaster investigators


THE US: Workers have discovered key sections of the space shuttle Columbia, including wreckage from the fuselage and landing gear, which may help investigators determine why the space craft disintegrated over Texas.

In Israel, an army spokesman announced early yesterday the recovery of the body of Israel's first man in space.

"NASA authorities this morning informed representatives of the Israel Defence Force that the body of Israeli pilot Col Ilan Ramon, who perished in the Columbia space shuttle disaster, had been identified," the statement said.

"The official identification was performed by NASA, and Israeli representatives in Houston were formally notified. The \ family was likewise informed. All necessary preparation for bringing him to Israel for burial will be made in the coming days," the spokesman said.

No official word has been released on the bodies of the six American members of the crew.

The shuttle debris, which included computer circuitry, was found in an area near the Louisiana border where the nose cone was located on Monday.

Recovery units paid particular attention to the area around Hemphill as they searched Jasper County's pine forests, river banks and open pastures to locate debris and remains.

The independent board investigating the disaster got a first-hand look at the huge field of debris that was scattered across Texas and Louisiana when the shuttle disintegrated 40 miles above the earth.

Board chairman Mr Harold Gehman led the entourage. It visited a handful of sites near Nacogdoches, Texas, where debris rained down on Saturday.

After viewing broken and burned parts from the shattered spacecraft, Mr Gehman vowed to get to the bottom of what caused it to fall apart.

"Our first imperative is to get it right. The astronauts who will fly in future orbiter missions need to know that we have done everything we possibly can to come to the bottom of this and fix it," said Mr Gehman, a retired Navy admiral who led the investigation in the bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen. - (Reuters)