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In this photograph, Vice President Mike Pence is touching an item labelled "Critical Space Flight Hardware". What is it? Has the photo been doctored?

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ related but different: Satellite manufacture and cleanliness $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 28 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: Thanks. Interestingly, his name never appears in that question or its answers, so it did not show up in my search for previous questions. $\endgroup$ – DrSheldon May 28 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ yes it's not really related, but it's one of those images/scenarios/memes that is impossible to forget! $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 28 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ Is there anyone here, who upon reading the title alone, did not immediately know which picture this question was referring to? $\endgroup$ – Ingolifs May 28 at 21:54
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The photo is legit, according to Time, Washington Post, NBC News, The Guardian, etc.

The coverage by the Washington Post says:

During a visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Vice President Pence solemnly reached out and touched the Orion spacecraft's titanium forward bay cover, placing his full palm just below a sign that read: “Critical Space Flight Hardware 'DO NOT TOUCH.' "

The manufacturer has an article which discusses the forward bay cover in some detail.

Parachutes aren’t built to withstand the 5,000-degree temperatures upon re-entry – they would be too heavy and unable to generate enough drag to slow the spacecraft down – so the forward bay cover protects them until just the right moment.

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    $\begingroup$ it looks doctored, anything that's not to be touched wouldn't have a sign taped on it with sticky tape, which leaves hard to remove residue when the tape itself is removed. And your sources aren't exactly trustworthy... $\endgroup$ – jwenting May 29 at 4:00
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    $\begingroup$ @jwenting second one is doctored, but it seems that it is generally agreed that the first one is real. twitter.com/VP/status/883408914196332544 WaPo is pretty trustworthy, and for something like this they can be expected to have done their homework. It happened. $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 29 at 8:54

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