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The materials on the shuttle's black underside will belly flop from ice-cold space into Earth's atmosphere at about 17-thousand miles an hour. It's an extreme shock, as friction with air molecules generates turbulent air flow and temperatures near 3-thousand degrees. But the reinforced carbon tiles protecting Discovery's aluminum airframe are engineered to actually strengthen as temperatures rise. And between each are those humbly-named, but high-tech, gap fillers—tough fibers designed to take the heat. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP Radio.