ETX facility keeps Columbia's name in the sky - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

ETX facility keeps Columbia's name in the sky

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PALESTINE, TX (KLTV) -

For one East Texas facility, the Columbia disaster changed them forever. The Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility is a NASA launch site that became a debris collection site in the months after the shuttle crashed.

Located in the piney woods of Palestine, the facility has been there for more than 50 years, but after the shuttle crash, they changed their name to honor those lost on February 1, 2003.

"A local civic organization got together and decided to rename us in honor of the shuttle disaster," said Michelle Johnson, network administrator for The Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

The Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility has been a NASA balloon launch point since 1962, but in 2003, things changed.

"We think back on that time with a lot of sadness, because it was obviously a time of great sadness for the country, but particularly those who work with NASA," said CSBF site manager, Danny Ball.

With the large amount of debris that fell in Palestine, the facility became a make-shift collection site.

"It upset our life for months because we had upwards of three hundred people with the debris collection team here for three months," Ball said.

It was a time that changed the community, so much so that local donors paid to have the facilities name changed and a plaque donated.

"The community came together and just made sure everything was handled and whatever help people needed, they got it. We just really came together," Johnson said.

Today, the balloon facility is one of 62 launch sites in the world that send large balloons with scientific plods at the bottom into the atmosphere, near space. The data is recorded in a control center, where they are able to track the balloons.

Facility operators said they're proud to bear the Columbia name and honor those that lost their lives.

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