UnNews:Astronauts lose nuts in space

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Astronauts lose nuts in space

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12 September 2006

Astronuts

Astro nuts go nuts nuts nuts.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Spacewalking astronauts worried they have may have gummed up a successful job connecting an addition to the International Space Station of Pancakes Tuesday when one of them lost several very important nuts out of his flight pants.

Astronaut Joe Tanner was working with his nuts as he floated over the head of Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and they popped out and skittered across the 17 1/2-ton box-like truss that they were hooking up.

While one of his nuts went out into space safely, Tanner worried that another nut could get into the truss's wiring and tubing and cause problems.

"Not a good thing," Tanner said. "Let's hope it doesn't end up somewhere in the mechanism."

"I don't see it anywhere."

NASA managers were examining whether the lost nuts would be a problem. Space debris can be dangerous if it punctures space station walls or spacesuits and can jam crucial mechanisms. However, spacewalkers have a long history of losing material in space.

Mission Control later told the Atlantis crew not to worry: "We don't think it's going to be a problem."

"I just hope that my nuts are soon back on Mother Earth and not on their way" to a crucial joint in the addition, Tanner replied.

The free-flying nuts marred an otherwise successful and speedy six-hour, 26-minute spacewalk Tuesday morning. Two other spacewalks are planned for later this week.

"You did a phenomenal job and set the bar very high for the rest of the assembly," Pam Melroy radioed from Mission Control when the spacewalk ended late Tuesday morning.

Tanner and Piper zipped through a jam-packed list of arduous but mundane construction tasks, putting NASA ahead of schedule in connecting the addition. With extra time, Mission Control assigned them half a dozen extra jobs of bolt removing and cover unlatching that would have been part of a Thursday spacewalk.

That's when the nuts slipped out.

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