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Robinson's amazing space walk

MSNBC's Randy Meier talks with Winston Scott, a former astronaut who logged 19 hours of space walks, about the intricacies and dangers of today's space walk from the Discovery.
/ Source: msnbc.com

Early Wednesday morning, astronaut Steve Robinson, pulled two pieces of dangerous filler from Discovery’s tile belly to prevent another Columbia-like disaster.  MSNBC’s Randy Meier spoke with former astronaut, Winston Scott about the dangers and intricacies of today’s space walk.  Winston, himself, has logged in over 19 hours of space walk during his career.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the “Launch” button to the right.

WINSTON SCOTT, FORMER ASTRONAUT:  It was very exciting watching Steve and the rest of the team perform that EVA {Extra Vehicular Activity} this morning.  They did an excellent job and pictures relay the complexity of that EVA.  In fact, just looking at the pictures, it looks as if everything’s so nice and still and calm.  But, I have to remind everybody that everything is moving at 17,500 mph - the shuttle, Steve, and the station.

RANDY MEIER, Anchor MSNBC Live:  What does that feel like, Winston?

SCOTT:  You can’t tell by feeling.  There’s no air resistance.  If you look beyond the shuttle at the Earth, then you know that you’re moving very, very rapidly.  But it’s all nice and calm and the movements between Steve and the orbiter have to be very, very precise.  Jim “Vegas” Kelly just did an excellent job of maneuvering Steve on that robot arm to get him into position and everything just worked out so well.  It’s a good day for NASA. 

MEIER:  NASA has been a bit of a pincushion over the course of the last few days.  How big a win is this for NASA?

SCOTT:  Well, it is certainly a win.  It shows that NASA has what it takes.  NASA is really good under pressure when things go wrong.  The ground team, the flight crew, they all get together and have a pretty good plan of action.  They execute it and they make it look easy but there was nothing easy about this complex EVA.  There are a lot of good things about NASA and individuals involved.

MEIER:  What is it like out there when you’re floating in space still trying to perform delicate maneuvers?

SCOTT:  It’s very difficult performing delicate maneuvers in that big suit.  It weighs 350 lbs. on Earth.  It’s pressurized; it resists every movement you’re trying to make.  So you’re maneuvering all of that mass including your body mass.  You’re trying to make delicate maneuvers with this suit of armor on your back and its not easy. 

There are temperature extremes. When you’re on the light side of the Earth the sun can heat up to 215 degrees Fahrenheit and on the dark side of the Earth it can get as cold as minus 215 degrees Fahrenheit.  So the extreme temperature swings, the bulky suit; it is not easy at all.  But, I tell you what, it’s challenging and the risks are rewarding.  It’s exciting and it’s spectacular.  It’s the kind of thing that astronauts live and work and dream for. 

MEIER:  Let me get your sense to how NASA could ultimately parlay this into more space repairs.  Do you believe now after seeing this done so successful and with virtual ease in terms of what they had to accomplish, it will enable NASA to be a little more likely to say- we can get up in space, if something goes wrong.  We know we have the ability in most cases to handle it or to fix it based on what we’ve seen here today.

SCOTT:  Well, absolutely.  With every successful maneuver, every successful in-flight maintenance or in flight repair as we fill it, it’s another data point and another success story NASA can add to its library.  It’s a tool kit for repairing in orbit and let’s face it, the longer we stay in space, either with the space station or going back to the Moon or off to Mars, you have to have a repair capability in engineering or a refurbishing capability in space so this is certainly going to be added to that repartee. 

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