Thursday, August 04, 2005

Yet another repair?

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) - With a gentle tug of his gloved right hand, Discovery astronaut Stephen Robinson removed two worrisome pieces of filler material from the shuttle's belly Wednesday in an unprecedented space repair job that drew a big sigh of relief from NASA.
But he may have to go out again to fix yet another trouble spot.
Robinson was barely back inside the shuttle and out of his spacesuit Wednesday when Mission Control informed the crew there was a chance that a fourth spacewalk may be needed Saturday to deal with a torn thermal blanket below a cockpit window.
If the spacewalk is necessary, it would delay the shuttle's scheduled undocking from the space station and push back Discovery's return to Earth until at least Tuesday, NASA officials said.
The concern is that a roughly 1-foot section of the blanket could rip away during re-entry, whip backward and slam into the shuttle, perhaps causing grave damage. Engineers expect to know by Thursday afternoon whether the danger is real and whether any blanket trimming is required.
"I think in the old days we would not have worried about this nearly so much," Hale said. "I am very hopeful that we will be able to put this issue at rest.
Overall, Discovery seems to be in good shape for re-entry, he said.


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