Wednesday, August 03, 2005

More on the Shuttle Repair

Spacewalking astronaut Steve Robinson plucked a couple of loose fiber strips from Discovery's belly on Wednesday in an unprecedented repair to the shuttle's heat shield.
"I'm grasping it and I'm pulling it and it's coming out very easily. Beautiful. Nice," Robinson radioed as he pulled the material out from between the heat resistant tiles on the shuttle's underside.
"It looks like this big patient is cured."
With fellow spacewalker Soichi Noguchi watching from a perch on the International Space Station, to which Discovery is docked on the first shuttle flight since the 2003 Columbia disaster, Robinson was lowered on the station's robot arm to an area below Discovery's nose.
Moving deliberately, he used his gloved fingers to tug out the two strips with surprisingly little effort. Robinson carried a small hacksaw, scissors and forceps in case he could not pull the strips out.
The strips, made of ceramic covered cloth, are thought to have come loose from their adhesive bond and, though protruding only an inch (2.5 cm), NASA engineers feared they could change the aerodynamics enough during landing on Aug. 8 to cause dangerous heat damage to the shuttle.


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