NASA has begun recovery efforts at its Michoud Assembly Facility after a tornado hit the New Orleans location yesterday.
The twister, which NASA captured on camera, hit at 11:25 a.m. local time (12:25 p.m. EST/1725 GMT) Tuesday (Feb. 7). All of the facility's 3,500 employees survived, but five suffered minor injuries from the weather event, NASA officials said in a statement yesterday.
"Our hearts go out to our employees and the people in New Orleans who have suffered from this serious storm," Keith Hefner, Michoud's director, said in the statement. "The safety of our team is always our main concern, and we are pleased to report that we've identified only minor injuries." [In Photos: Tornado Damage at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility]
The facility is closed today, and everyone not involved in the recovery has been evacuated while emergency personnel assess the damage. As of yesterday, damage had been identified in a few buildings, including roof damage in Building 103, which is the facility's main manufacturing building. Approximately 200 parked cars were damaged as well.
"Michoud has a comprehensive emergency plan that we activated today to ensure the safety of our people and to secure our facilities," Hefner said. "I am proud of our dedicated team on-site who are successfully implementing that plan."
The core stage of the enormous next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the system's main propulsion system and manufacturing structures for its corresponding crewed spacecraft, Orion, are slated to be built at the Michoud facility.
NASA officials confirmed that hardware for the rocket and spacecraft is secure and that no damage has been identified. Furthermore, no damage has been found on NASA's historic Pegasus barge, which transported space shuttle components from New Orleans to the launch site in Florida and is being refurbished to transport SLS components.