Residents in eastern Texas and nearby Louisiana are stumbling upon wreckage from the shuttle Columbia, as the U-S army joins the effort.
Authorities have identified 15-hundred wreckage sites in eastern Texas. The shuttle broke apart in flames 60-thousand meters over Texas Saturday, spreading debris over 800 square kilometers.
Across the city of Nacogdooches (na-ko-DOH-chez), Texas and the surrounding pine forest,residents found chunks of debris. Police have also confirmed that human remains have been discovered.
The Army's First Cavalry Division has sent a search and rescue task force from Fort Hood, Texas to search for debris.
Meanwhile, NASA has warned members of the public not to touch any pieces of the shuttle, because they might be contaminated with toxic propellants. Dozens of people have already been hospitalized after handling the smoldering metal wreckage.
The Associated Press reports the wreckage that is found is being trucked to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana for inspection and analysis. A team of 20 engineering experts from the United Space Alliance, a contractor for the NASA shuttle program, is being sent to the base to examine the debris.
News agency reports say that as local law enforcement agencies tried to protect the debris, some people attempted to sell the wreckage on Internet auction site, e-Bay. The attempted sales were removed by e-Bay.
Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss says his office has received more than one-thousand calls reporting debris found in the area. He says the search is focusing on what he termed essential pieces such as parts of the cockpit and instrument panels.
NASA is eager to find as many pieces as possible for clues as to why the shuttle blew up and disintegrated. The space agency has set up a telephone hotline and electronic mail address for the public to use for reporting information.