NASA Thanks Search Crews Near Palestine

"It's critical we figure out what happened," says NASA administrator, Sean O'Keefe. It's a phrase NASA's administrator, Sean O'Keefe can never stress enough.

"I'm sure our NASA reps have reminded you how critical this is to the whole investigation," says O'Keefe.

That's why diligent crews are moving into a third month of shuttle searching near Palestine. O'Keefe came back to East Texas to join searchers one more time as the scouting for debris winds down.

"They're covering about 3.5 acres a day, per person," says NASA administrator, Sean O'Keefe. 

   Already, Palestine recovery teams have picked up 13,500 pieces to the puzzle. 440 of those have been fast-tracked back to Kennedy Space Center because they were deemed instrumental to the Columbia investigation.

Just Wednesday, a portion of the cargo door was picked up as was a sizeable piece of tile from the rugged, often trying terrain of East Texas.

"Until you're here and you see the ground you can't comprehend the magnitude of this," says James Moseley, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary.

And some of the searchers aren't even from NASA. They come from the EPA, FEMA and Forest Services from all over the country.

"We're just honored to help a sister agency that's had some difficulty," says Dale Bosworth, U.S. Forest Service.

Now there's only eight square miles of the Palestine grid left to scour.

"It's conceivable we could return to flight this calendar year," says

The incentive O'Keefe says filling in the blank to the shuttle disaster so astronauts can safely fly again.

Dana Dixon, reporting.