Plastic Ingenuity sent its first plastic packages into outer space in June 2007 to protect and preserve the integrity of a device used to repair the space shuttle Atlantis. The stapling device helped correct a loose thermal blanket in the heat shield.
The U.S. Space Agency has been meticulous about monitoring and maintaining the condition of shuttle heat shields since Columbia disingegrated during its return to Earth in 2003.
The blanket problem was a small four-inch by six-inch gap near the rear of the shuttle, and was corrected during a space walk, allowing the crew to re-enter the earth's atmosphere without incident.
NASA needs all three remaining shuttles in good shape to complete 12 more space station construction missions by 2010, when the shuttles are scheduled to be retired.