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September 06, 2006

Plastic Bag Spotted in Space

New York Times

20shul With extra inspections showing no problems, NASA managers today cleared the space shuttle Atlantis for a Thursday landing after an extra day in space because of concerns about unexpected debris floating from the ship. NASA delayed a landing set for Wednesday and kept Atlantis in orbit an extra day while engineers tried to determine if a mystery object seen floating nearby indicated possible damage to the spacecraft. The shuttle program director, N. Wayne Hale Jr., said the mystery object unexpectedly seen by shuttle cameras was likely a plastic shim used to separate thermal tiles on the bottom of the orbiter.

Late Tuesday, one of the astronauts aboard Atlantis spotted a second object floating by a window and photographed it. Mr. Hale said the second object appeared to be a plastic bag mistakenly left in the cargo bay before launch. And today, astronauts spotted three other small bits of debris that looked like a piece of foil and plastic rings. Mr. Hale said that such so-called foreign object debris is not uncommon, but that NASA works to eliminate it.

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