Strange Object Baffles Astronauts

Mysterious rectangle floats by
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2008 11:10 AM CDT
The vertical stabilizer on the shuttle Discovery is seen in this June 13 photo. The shuttle crew noticed an object floating away, and discovered a small protrusion on the stabilizer's rudder.   (AP Photo/NASA TV)
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(Newser) – The Discovery’s crew was perplexed today when it spotted a mysterious object floating past the right wing, the Houston Chronicle reports. The astronauts sent videos and photos of the light-colored, rectangular object to NASA. They also noticed an unusual protrusion on the tail rudder. “We’re in data assessment mode at this point,” a mission control spokesman said.

The rudder protrusion is near the shuttle’s heat shielding; engineers think it may be a piece of insulation sticking out. The astronauts are preparing to use the shuttle’s camera-wielding robot arm to investigate. The object, meanwhile, was about 18 inches long and may have come from the shuttle’s cargo bay. If the shuttle’s return is delayed tomorrow, the crew has enough supplies to remain in orbit until Tuesday. (Read more Discovery space shuttle stories.)