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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Watching a spacewalk: Fixing Atlantis' thermal blanket

Astronauts fix thermal blanket on Atlantis

I have never sat down and turned on NASA TV, whether it be on a television set or the computer, to watch a spacewalk by least until the other day.

Since the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, I have been very interested in NASA and the shuttle program and started to follow the missions more frequently and closely.

The recent tear in the Space Shuttle Atlantis' Thermal Protection System (TPS) has got me monitoring the mission closely.

I decided to turn on the computer, go to the NASA website and click on watch NASA TV. I knew the spacewalk started at 1:00 p.m. (eastern time) on June 15, but I was just starting to watch at 2:00 p.m., so i was hoping I did not miss the astronaut fixing the thermal blanket.

Much to my relief, they managed to fix the tear.

Astronauts tucked the material back into place and then stapled up the seams where the material was torn.

But the repair did not go without flaws. Astronauts repairing the tear say that the tear line was "higher than expected," according to radio transmissions heard live on NASA TV. Astronauts also report that the area where the tear was present is "well worn away" and because of that, no staples were able to be placed on the top side of the blanket near the top of the tear, leaving a small "gap" between the seams.

To watch was not only educational, but entertaining and amazing. To think that just miles above my head, these men and women are floating around fixing a shuttle. Only to look down and I only wonder if they are looking at me ;)

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