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NASA interested in MUN facilitied

Touching down

(February 24, 2000, Gazette)

Supervisor and diving specialist Dale Decker (L) familiarizes airport general manager Jim Roche with the operation of the hyperbaric chamber. It is one of four operated by Memorial’s Centre for Offshore and Remote Medicine at the Health Sciences Centre. The chamber is considered by NASA as one of the finest decompression facilities in the world and could be used by the shuttle crew in the event of an emergency landing by the orbiter at St. John’s. The chambers are able to handle up to 15 people at one time.

Photo by Fred Whiteway

By Sharon Gray

Although Newfoundland is far removed from the operations of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Shuttle program, there may be a time in future when the facilities at the St. John’s Airport, and particularly Memorial’s hyperbaric chambers, could be of use.

NASA has developed a worldwide Abort Support System in the event that either the space shuttle Endeavor or Columbia experience a major engine failure upon launch. Five airports along Canada’s East Coast have been designated as possible emergency landing sites, with four located in this province at St. John’s. Gander, Stephenville and Goose Bay. The other is the Halifax International Airport.

On a fact-finding tour and assessment last fall, NASA officials tabled a list of post-landing guidelines ranging from security to safety regarding various shuttle hazards.

Space shuttle landing support office Marty Linde said the facilities in St. John’s are ideal in the event of an emergency landing, pointing out that the crew would possibly have to undergo a period of decompression and that the hyperbaric chambers at Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine are one of the few places in the world that would meet NASA needs.