NASA mulls space repairs

10/01/2019 Posted by admin

NASA is still analysing the shuttle’s reinforced carbon protection for the nose cone wing edges, and studying whether protruding gap fillers pose a significant risk.

NASA shuttle flight director Paul Hill said the astronauts might fix two pieces of filler dangling from Discovery’s underbelly during a spacewalk.

The fillers are used to keep hot gas from flowing into gaps in the thermal protection in tile-protected areas.

But the agency has given Discovery’s tiles the all clear following worries that they may have been damaged by a piece of insulating foam which fell off the rocket during lift-off on July 26.

Since the launch technicians have been reviewing images of the shuttle’s body to check for damage to avoid a repeat of the Columbia tragedy in 2003, which was blamed on similar debris hitting the shuttle during blastoff.

NASA administrator Michael Griffin said pre-flight safety checks had fallen short.

“Our judgement at the time was that it was okay. As everyone has said without any attempt to hide it… we goofed on that one,” he told NBC television.

Mr Griffin also conceded NASA had been “lucky” that the stray shard of foam that fell off Discovery’s external tank during lift-off had not caused serious damage.

“If it had broken off earlier and if it had followed a different trajectory, it could have hit the orbiter… and could have done some damage,” he said.

Columbia burned up during re-entry on February 1, 2003, after debris hit its wing during lift-off, damaging its protective heat shield. The seven crew members died.

Discovery is currently docked at the International Space Station.

Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and American counterpart Steve Robinson prepared for a second spacewalk on Monday. They will install a 600-pound gyroscope on the ISS.

The pair tested new repair techniques during their first venture into space on Saturday.

Discovery’s mission also includes removing trash and old equipment from the space station.

The shuttle is due to return to earth on Monday, August 8, at 0847 GMT.

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