13:55 GMT +316 October 2019
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    NASA Astronauts Lose Essential ISS Fabric Shield During Spacewalk

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    NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson accidentally lost an important piece of fabric shield at the International Space Station (ISS) during a spacewalk Thursday.

    The astronauts were working on the ISS’ exterior, reconnecting a docking module when suddenly one of four large cloth shields used to cover the docking port access point detached and drifted away into space.

    To be clear, the fabric shields aren’t like the average king size bed sheet. Each one is over five feet long, two feet wide and almost three inches thick. The shields weigh approximately 8kg.

    These shields are vital because they are used to protect the exposed port from orbital debris and other space junk that could potentially damage the hardware. The shields also provide a barrier to extreme temperature changes.

    Luckily, the astronauts managed to install another shield that they removed from the port, which was transferred earlier.

    So far, the reason for this incident remains unclear as everything had been going smoothly for the couple of hours before the incident took place.

    Eventually, the shield will degrade, then burn up when it reenters Earth’s atmosphere.

    However, there’s no gravity or friction to stop floating objects in space, so any item lost during a spacewalk can fully orbit the Earth and return to its starting point potentially damaging anything in its way.

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    Tags:
    astronauts, orbit, atmosphere, Earth, space debris, spacewalk, NASA, International Space Station (ISS), United States
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