Roberta L. Gross
Inspector General

(Phone: 202-358-1220)

Samuel A. Maxey, III

Assistant Inspector General for Investigations

(Phone: 202-358-2580)

RELEASE: 2000-079

On August 22, 2000, Charles Starowesky of Somerset Ohio pled guilty in
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Columbus, OH, to one count
of possession of U.S. Government property, with the intent to convert it to
his own use. Starowesky illegally possessed and attempted to sell a heat
shield tile from the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger, in violation of
Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, Theft of Government Property.
In accepting the guilty plea, United States District Judge John D. Holshuh
sentenced Starowesky to two years probation.

Starowesky’s guilty plea was the result of an incident on October 28, 1999,
when he offered for sale on “eBay” a heat shield tile from the Space Shuttle
Challenger. Starowesky had recovered the heat shield tile from the
Challenger wreckage, in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. At the time of
the Challenger explosion in January 1986, Starowesky was assigned to the
USS Aubrey Fitch during the recovery effort conducted by the U.S. Navy and
Coast Guard. Starowesky obtained the heat shield from the disaster site by
dipping a bucket into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. He has possessed
the shield for 14 years. At the time of the Challenger Space Shuttle
recovery effort, all of the Challenger debris was to be retrieved and
returned to a NASA hanger for use in reconstructing the Challenger.

This investigation was conducted by Special Agents of the NASA Office of
Criminal Investigations. The prosecution was handled by Assistant United
States Attorney J. Michael Marous, Southern District of Ohio, Columbus, OH
(614) 469-5715.


Complaints May Be Referred To The NASA OIG Hotline At:

News Release

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Office of Inspector General

Washington, DC 20546