A Spacewalk in the Park:

Insulation Removed

* Astronaut Steve Robinson made his job look as easy as taking a videocassette out of a VCR.

Of course he was suspended on a 58-foot-tall crane more than 250 miles above Earth; that's not exactly the same as sitting in your family room.

Yesterday morning, Robinson gently removed two pieces of insulation, called gap fillers, that were sticking out from the bottom of space shuttle Discovery. The never-before-tried repairs to the belly of the shuttle were done because NASA scientists were concerned that the pieces could spark a fire as Discovery returns to Earth on Monday.

Fire destroyed shuttle Columbia 21/2 years ago, killing its seven astronauts.

Robinson took equipment with him on the spacewalk -- forceps to pull on the two pieces of cloth-like material and a saw to cut them -- but all he needed to do was grab and pull.

As he tugged on the first piece, which was sticking out about an inch from the shuttle, Robinson said, "It's coming out very easily."

These pieces of insulation prevent the titles from bumping into each other during the shuttle's lift-off. Once in orbit, the shuttle no longer needs them, NASA said.

Astronaut Steve Robinson pulls out insulation from the shuttle's belly.