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Astronaut pulls out loose filler from shuttle underbelly

Mission Specialist Steve Robinson approaches the underside of Discovery, where he pulled out gap fillers that were protruding from two areas between heat-shielding tiles on Discovery. Robinson gently tugged the protrusions with his glove until they came out. (NASA TV)

You have to hold your breath and try not to think about how much more can go wrong, no thanks to NASA’s billions of retrofitting, testing and just plain money-burning that necessitated this spacewalk. Thank goodness this poor guy up there fixed this problem the old fashioned way — elbow grease.

I was watching CNN space guru and AM host Miles O’Brien, and he held up the tools that the spacewalkers would have ready to use for this delicate operation if simple pulling didn’t work — a pair of regular forceps and a hacksaw. NASA’s rocket science seems very, well, pedestrian. Do you think NASA paid street value for those tools, or is procurement for these sort of items like the military’s $1000 toilet seat? (NASA):

Even though only one spacewalker was able to work on the underside of Discovery, the repair efforts required teamwork. Fellow spacewalker Mission Specialist Soichi Noguchi provided communications and visual support to Robinson and flight controllers. Mission Specialist Andy Thomas is the spacewalk coordinator. Pilot Jim Kelly and Mission Specialist Wendy Lawrence are the spacewalk’s Station robot arm operators.

Before they could start the repair work, Noguchi and Robinson attached the External Stowage Platform-2 onto the Station’s Unity Node at 5:40 a.m. EDT. The duo also attached a materials exposure experiment to the Station.

There is one more major task scheduled for this spacewalk. The crew will remove a Joint Rotary Motor Controller from the Station’s truss. Then, they will clean up before re-entering Discovery.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding