Astronauts to repair Discovery

10/01/2019 Posted by admin

NASA has opted to cut off two ceramic fibre strands hanging from the belly of the shuttle that have dislodged, in a bid to end uncertainty over its safety.

Deputy head of the US shuttle program Wayne Hale said it is an example of NASA’s new space shuttle program, adding that the repair operation will only be deemed a success when it returns to Earth.

There are fears the shuttle could overheat because of instability that the gap fillers, which are dangling from between the thermal tiles on the shuttle’s underside, could cause.

“Given that large degree of uncertainty, life could be normal during entry or some bad things could happen,” said Mr Hale.

“We examined our options to set our minds at rest and make sure that we didn’t stay up late at night worrying about bad things happening.”

Either Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi or American fellow crew member Steve Robinson will carry out the repairs during their third spacewalk on the mission on Wednesday.

The ceramic fibre fillers are used to keep hot gas from flowing into gaps between the thermal outer protection tiles.

While shuttles have flown with the protruding strands in the past, both in this case are sticking out further than the 0.63 centimetre limit generally considered safe.

One of the astronauts will be carried underneath the shuttle on the International Space Station’s robotic arm to attempt to either pull out the dangling bits or cut them off.

If it doesn’t work, Mr Hale said they can try again on Thursday or Friday.

NASA engineers believe the operation is unlikely to damage the surrounding thermal tiles, however “that risk has got to be mitigated and controlled,” said Mr Hale.

The two astronauts from Discovery earlier carried out repairs to the International Space Station, where Discovery is now docked.

Mr Noguchi and Mr Robinson went on a seven hour, 14 minute mission into space to replace a faulty gyroscope that helps to steer the ISS.

Wearing bulky space suits for the second time on this mission, the pair went out into space at 6.42pm AEST on Monday.

Mr Noguchi was attached to the robotic arm to collect the broken gyroscope, take it back to Discovery’s cargo bay, and ride back with a new one.

“Oh, the view is priceless,” he said as he moved toward the gyroscope. “I can see the moon.”

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