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CEDAR CITY, Utah (AP) -- Search efforts for debris from the space shuttle Columbia have increased in southern Utah.
"There has been a shift of priorities with NASA, who are gearing up their own man-power into the area to come in and do some serious searching," said Charlie Morris, commander of the Iron County search and rescue team.
NASA has set a May 15 deadline for the search. Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused the shuttle to disintegrate upon re-entry Feb. 1, killing all seven astronauts.
NASA believes debris might be found somewhere in a 2,000-acre search grid in the vicinity of Gold Springs, near the Nevada state line. A search of that area began April 12 with 32 volunteers combing an 800-by-1,000-foot area. Searchers covered one-sixth of the area in two days, hiking treacherous rocked-covered hills among thick foliage of scrub oak and juniper trees.
"I think NASA obviously feels like there is something out there, but realized how unforgiving the terrain was and how large the scope of the search was," Iron County sheriff Dude Benson said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)