New Orleans NASA Facility Where Deep-space Rocket is Being Built Takes Direct Hit from Tornado

NASA official Stephen Doering with the SLS rocket's liquid hydrogen fuel tank at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Joel Achenbach/The Washington Post)
NASA official Stephen Doering with the SLS rocket’s liquid hydrogen fuel tank at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Joel Achenbach/The Washington Post)

A tornado on Tuesday damaged the NASA facility in New Orleans where workers are building key components of the agency’s new deep-space rocket.

The twister touched down before noon and ripped holes in the roof and walls of the sprawling Michoud Assembly Facility. NASA employees and contractors there are building the huge hydrogen and oxygen fuel tanks for the heavy-lift rocket known as the Space Launch System.

A NASA statement said all personnel were accounted for. A damage assessment was underway late Tuesday afternoon.

Stephen C. Doering, manager of the SLS Stages Element Office for NASA, told The Washington Post that he was watching the twister from the parking lot when it moved toward the assembly facility. He and his colleagues ran inside to shelter in the restrooms, he said.

“You could see it come in the parking lot. It took about a half a dozen cars and picked them up and knocked them over like rag dolls,” Doering said.

After the tornado passed, workers smelled gas and were ordered out of the building. But with other tornadoes reported in the area, everyone had to shelter in place again, he said.

Doering said he had heard of one injury but didn’t know the severity. While the hardware for the new rocket was undamaged, he said, workers were busy patching holes in the building’s exterior, hoping to prevent water damage to the elaborate and expensive equipment used to weld the big fuel tanks.

View this post on Instagram

Damage at the NASA Michoud facility in New Orleans East.

A post shared by Scott Walker (@scottwalker504) on

View this post on Instagram

A tornado literally just went right past our base.

A post shared by Samuel (@damnitsamit) on

Click here to continue reading…

SOURCE: Joel Achenbach 
The Washington Post