The Use of Remote Sensing and GIS Technology
during the Space Shuttle Columbia Recovery

Dr. Gordon Wells
Research Associate
Center for Space Research
The University of Texas at Austin

The disintegration of Space Shuttle Columbia over Texas on the morning of February 1, 2003, triggered an extraordinary response from the local and state community of geospatial specialists. GPS, GIS and remote sensing applications became pivotal elements in the search for human remains and hazardous materials and in the forensic investigation of the orbiter's debris field. One unanticipated repercussion of the Columbia Recovery operation is the impact that geospatial technology has had on strategic planning for emergency management in Texas.

Native Texan
Raised in Deep East Texas
Family from Nacogdoches County (Ground Zero of the Columbia disaster)
Graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Physics and B.A. in Interdisciplinary Honors (Plan II)
M.S. and doctorate from Oxford University in Quaternary Geology and Paleoclimatology

Research scientist in the 1980's for the Space Shuttle Earth Observations Program at the NASA Johnson Space Center. Senior Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in the early-1990's. State Technical Analyst for the Texas Strategic Mapping Program for the Texas Natural Resources Information System in the late-1990's. Currently the Program Manager for the Mid-American Geospatial Information Center and the new direct broadcast satellite receiving station at the University of Texas Center for Space Research.