Tornado Hits NASA Facility Where Space Launch System Rocket Parts are Manufactured
Even the facilities of the government's premiere space agency were not spared from weather disturbances such as tornadoes. A number of tornadoes passed by last Feb. 7 leaving wreckage behind.
NASA announced that there were about 10 minor injuries. "We're still assessing the damage at the facility," Tracy McMahan of NASA said in an interview with Gizmodo. "Several buildings have roof damage. The facility's closed, and a lot of cars have been damaged and the roads. But we have an emergency plan that we implemented perfectly."
Despite the disturbance, NASA said that no flight hardware damages were found at the Michoud Assembly Facility. However, the agency is still assessing the situation after the tornado. The facility is responsible for the manufacture of NASA rockets.
Some parts of NASA's most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, are found at the said facility center affected by the tornado. The SLS is currently being developed to help send the first crew to Mars during NASA's Journey to Mars mission in 2030. The SLS is slated for its first flight this coming 2018, so any major damage to the rocket and its parts might cause a delay to the mission.
Aside from SLS, the Orion capsule that will house astronauts during their space travel is also being assembled in the facility. Despite the effects of the tornadoes to the community and properties like cars, NASA assures the public that the vital machinery and rocket parts are all safe.
"The SLS rocket [parts], Pegasus, and Orion do not appear damaged," McMahan added. "We'll know something a little bit more later today."
However, NASA also confirmed that there were minor injuries incurred during the incident.
"At this time, only minor injuries have been reported and NASA employees and other tenants are being accounted for," a NASA spokesperson said in a statement.
Some eyewitnesses described the disturbance as "bad". Officials and the Michoud emergency team are working on the damage assessment.