03 August 2005

NASA Has Success

History was made today during an unplanned and unpracticed EVM assignment for Astronauts Steve Robinson and Soichi Noguchi. Robinson, tethered to the robotic arm of the International Space Station journeyed to the underside of the Discovery Orbiter on a mission to remove 2 pieces of gap filler that were a potential danger for re-entry. Robinson was able to remove both pieces of filler without needing any additional tools. This is a victory for NASA. The crew of Discovery and the ISS have proven that improvised repairs can be made during a mission. I have been glued to NASA TV during the 3 EVM missions this week. The clarity of the video is something else. To tell the truth, I have been like most Americans in my regard of Shuttle missions being routine until the Columbia disaster. But this being such an important return to space mission, I have been watching it very closely. In 1981, I was in the 5th grade when the Space Shuttle Columbia became the first mission for the Shuttle Program. In our school, they paired up classrooms and we watched the launch and landings live. This mission has the same historical feel to it that the 1st Columbia Shuttle mission had. From NASA's website:
The STS-114 crew completed heat shield repair efforts quickly and just as planned on Space Shuttle Discovery’s underbelly during today's spacewalk. STS-114 Mission Specialist Steve Robinson removed gap fillers that were protruding from two areas between heat-shielding tiles on Discovery. Robinson gently tugged the protrusions until they came out. After he removed the second protrusion, Robinson declared, "It looks like this big patient is cured." 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 the arm could return Robinson to the payload bay, he took pictures of the heat shield for analysis by engineers. 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. The orbital stroll began at 4:48 a.m. EDT and is slated to conclude shortly. This is the third STS-114 spacewalk and the 61st spacewalk dedicated to Station assembly and maintenance. Other activities today included an inspection of the repair demonstration tiles inside the Shuttle's payload bay using the Orbiter Boom Sensor System. Also, cargo stowage is continuing inside the Station.
As soon as today's mission pictures are posted on the NASA website, I will endeavor to download them and post them here. The pictures that Steve Robinson took are supposed to be great views of the shuttle, the ISS, his EVM teamate, and the Earth. Can't wait to see and share them.
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