Discovery Given OK for Return Flight

Posted on August 4, 2005

NASA has declared the Discovery space shuttle safe to return home after an unprecedented spacewalk where astronaut Stephen Robinson removed two fabric strips from the underbelly of the spacecraft. reports that NASA tested a torn thermal blanket to make sure it would not cause a problem before giving the "ok" on the return flight.

The final issue of concern -- a torn thermal blanket just below the cockpit window that might shed bits of debris during the shuttle's descent -- was cleared off the table Thursday morning after a series of wind-tunnel tests, said deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale, who heads Discovery's mission management team.

The tests indicated that even if pieces of cloth debris blew off and struck the aft section of the orbiter, it would be "of negligible concern" and pose no threat to Discovery's safe landing, he said. Under those circumstances, sending spacewalkers out to snip away the torn section would have violated the "first, do no harm" rule, Hale said.

Obviously there has been a great deal of concern about the Space Shuttle considering what happened to the Columbia flight in 2003 but everyone is hopeful and NASA sounds positive about a successful landing.

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