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tilesDespite the increased safety precautions, the 2005 flight of Discovery appeared to be in jeopardy when a piece of foam damaged heat-shield tiles on the underside of the shuttle during takeoff.
NASA scientists discovered that two ceramic coated-fabric gap fillers, which are used to prevent hot gas from seeping into gaps between Discovery's protective tiles, were sticking out about an inch from the shuttle's belly.
space walkShuttle astronauts have taken numerous space walks to repair satellites, conduct tests and help build the International Space Station. Mission Specialist Steve Robinson dangles in space attached to the arm of the space shuttle on Aug. 3, 2005, as he successfully removes protruding thermal-protection gap fillers from the heat shield of Discovery.
With the Columbia disaster, the aging remaining shuttles and the high cost of the program, the future of space shuttle travel is in jeopardy. The next flights for Discovery and Endeavor are tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2006. NASA, meanwhile, will be building bigger rockets and pointing them toward the moon and, eventually, Mars.