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NASA: Small Wrench Rattling Around In Shuttle For Almost 3 Years

May 27, 1987

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ A 4 1/2 -inch wrench lost inside the space shuttle Discovery during construction nearly three years and six missions ago has been recovered by a woman recruited because of her long, slender arms, a NASA spokesman said Tuesday.

The 1-ounce tool was discovered Thursday during routine pre-flight metals stress testing using X-rays, said NASA spokesman Jim Ball.

″It’s a typical kind of wrench you would pull from your car’s tool box,″ Ball said. ″It was wedged in a cavity between the crew module and the outer hull of the ship,″ an area filled with isolation blankets.

He said NASA engineers used a fiber optic instrument to pinpoint where the wrench was located, near a small antennae cavity.

″They had a time trying to get at the thing,″ Ball said. ″Finally they found a female engineer on the site who had long and slender arms. She was able to reach into the cavity and grab it.

″She may even get to keep it as a prize.″

Plans to use the fiber optic instrument to retrieve the wrench were scrapped after the unidentified woman grabbed the tool, Ball said.

Rockwell International, the shuttle contractor, notified NASA in 1983 that the wrench was dropped into the Discovery by a technician during construction in Palmdale, Calif., he said.

Ball said the wrench had obviously moved around inside the space ship because it was retrieved in an area away from where Rockwell reported losing it.

NASA officials have ruled out the possibility of any foul play or mischief, said Dick Young, another NASA spokesman.

″Because the item was so small, so light, they decided there was no concern and NASA also concluded there was no concern,″ said NASA spokesman Charles Redmond III in Washington. ″And, of course, the orbiter did fly several times″ without any problem from the wrench.

Young said the orbiter made six flights with the lost wrench, from August 1984 to August 1985.

Discovery is undergoing tests in preparation for another shuttle flight, which NASA said last week could come in June 1988.

One test involves filling the external tank with fuel for a simulated launch countdown. In a second test, called a flight readiness exercise, the shuttle’s three main engines are fired for 20 seconds while the ship is held to the launch pad.

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