Two NASA astronauts working on the International Space Station managed to lose one of the four thermal shields that they were supposed to be installing as it simply floated away into space somewhere. The two astronauts on the mission were Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson.
Although the agency never actually explained how the pair managed to lose the part, it’s definitely no longer on the space station. Experts figure that it could be slowly making its way to Earth where it will eventually be burned up, or it could have gone in the other direction and is somewhere floating around space.
This is what NASA had to say about the incident, “The duo were also tasked with installing four thermal protection shields on the Tranquility module of the International Space Station. The shields were required to cover the port where the PMA-3 was removed earlier in the week and robotically installed on the Harmony module. During the spacewalk, one of the shields was inadvertently lost. The loss posed no immediate danger to the astronauts and Kimbrough and Whitson went on to successfully install the remaining shields on the common berthing mechanism port.”
So, although it was a bit of a mishap, it’s not going to cause major mayhem anywhere in the world. The worst thing about it was there was no spare part to replace it with. Luckily the team managed to remove another part of the space station to use as a replacement temporary shield and once again there’s adequate thermal and micrometeoroid protection in place.
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