Shuttle astronaut pulls gap filler out in spacewalk

I waited until I could find a news article with a pretty picture, this wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, as this space walk should have allowed for some excellent views of the shuttle and the earth behind it. The astronaut successfully pulled out the “gap fillers” that were protruding from the underbelly. There was concern that the friction caused by these on re-entry would cause overheating.

I think with all the detailed pictures they’re getting this time of the underbelly of the craft they’re seeing things they’ve never seen before. NASA has noted that these gap fillers have been found before, protruding not quite as far, but before that was after landing. They presumably would burn (or at least singe a bit) in re-entry. The unknown though is something you don’t want to mess with when there are lives at risk, so they’ve made things neat and tidy by removing the gap fillers. (They just pulled out.)

These gap fillers are supposed to be there just for protection of the fragile tiles during liftoff. (To keep them from banging into each other and cracking I suppose.) It’s good to see NASA fostering a mindset where a crew can not only be able to affect exterior repairs, but they’re cleared to (told to in this case) and have tools (even if they’re makeshift in some cases) to do so. I think ultimately, that will make us, as a society, more confident in space travel than if all we do is send people to go sit in a little capsule of some sort never daring to step outside to try and fix something. It at least gives an attitude of self-sufficiency that can do the program well.

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