Space Station Shield Lost During Spacewalk

US astronauts 'MacGyvered' a solution
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2017 4:49 AM CDT
Space Station Shield Lost During Spacewalk
US astronauts Peggy Whitson, above, and Shane Kimbrough work on the outside of the International Space Station on Thursday.   (NASA via AP)

In space, nobody can hear you scream, "Oh no, there goes the shielding"—apart from Mission Control. American astronauts Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough suffered a frustrating setback during a spacewalk Thursday when one of the four fabric shields they were installing on the exterior of the International Space Station drifted off into space, Reuters reports. But Mission Control came up with what the AP calls a "MacGyver-like plan for a patch" and directed the astronauts to use the cover from a relocated docking port to cover the vulnerable area. "You guys came up with a fantastic plan—on short notice. That's amazing," Whitson said. It's not clear why the shield, which was supposed to be tethered, ended up floating away.

The lost debris shield is now an 18-pound piece of space debris itself—and at 5 feet across, it's one of the bigger objects lost by spacewalkers. "Sometimes bolts will go," NASA spokesman Dan Huot tells the Washington Post. "There was one spacewalk where we lost an entire bag of tools." He says Mission Control determined that the floating shield, which will eventually burn up in Earth's atmosphere, was no threat to the ISS. NASA says the seven-hour spacewalk was otherwise a success. Whitson, 57, was on her eighth spacewalk. Halfway through the mission, she broke the 50-hour, 40-minute record for accumulated time spacewalking by a female astronaut. (This summer, the coldest spot in space will be on the ISS.)

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