FEMA uses closed NASA facility

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has set up its regional headquarters to oversee rescue operations for Hurricane Katrina at a NASA research facility closed by the storm, NASA officials said today.

FEMA moved on Wednesday into the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, about 45 miles northeast of New Orleans, said Katherine Trinidad, a spokeswoman for NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Stennis sustained minor structural damage, but still lacks electricity and cell phone and Internet access, Trinidad said. “There’s no way to communicate with them” other than by satellite phone, she said.

No Stennis employees or contractors were hurt in the storm, NASA’s Web site stated. Generators are providing limited power, it said. FEMA is providing food and water to more than 1,000 people, including NASA employees and contractors, at the site.

The hurricane also closed the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the NASA site said. Michoud is accessible only by helicopter because all roads leading to it have flooded, it said. The facility has no electricity and limited communications, NASA said.

Stennis engineers test the Space Shuttle’s main engines and build the shuttle’s external fuel tanks at Michoud.

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