NASA paid US$26.6 million to family members of the astronauts who died on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003, a newspaper reported Sunday, citing recently released documents.
Documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel through a federal Freedom of Information Act request show that former FBI Director William Webster helped negotiate out-of-court settlements with the families.
NASA obtained money for the settlement through a congressional appropriation in 2004, NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said.
Webster told the Sentinel that the families did not wish to discuss the matter after it was settled.
"The members of the families wanted this to be a private matter," he said. "They were healing, and they were ready to discuss, properly, their rights. ... Everyone felt it had a better chance of coming together without seeing their name in lights."