NASA officials confirmed Tuesday that debris revealed by the receding waters of a drought-stricken Texas lake is from the space shuttle Columbia.
Fishermen found the object last week after severe drought caused the water level in Lake Nacogdoches to drop, said Sgt. Greg Sowell of the Nacogdoches Police Department.
The space shuttle exploded Feb. 1, 2003, upon re-entering the atmosphere over Texas, killing all seven crew members. The explosion scattered debris across the eastern portion of the state.
The object, which measures 4 feet in diameter, is called a PRSD, which stands for power reactant storage and distribution, said Lisa Malone, a spokeswoman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
It is one of 18 tanks that provided electricity and water for the shuttle, she said.
NASA has recovered about 40 percent of the shuttle and receives several tips each year from Texans who stumble upon debris.
The agency stores recovered pieces at the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, Fla., Malone said.
Authorities in Nacogdoches have left the object in the lake bed and are awaiting instructions from NASA on how to proceed, Sowell said. NASA is working on a plan to retrieve it and transport it to Florida.
Access to the area has been restricted, Sowell said.
"It is government property, and it is a federal offense to tamper with it," he said. "So just leave it alone."