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Damage to Endeavour appears less serious

This photo from NASA, shows the underside of the Space Shuttle Endeavour 10 August 2007 from the International Space Station during a back flip and careful survey by crewmembers onboard the orbital outpost. Experts at NASA were analyzing the pictures that showed the apparent three square inch (19 square centimeter) gouge (white spot on lower left) on shuttle's heat shield. A piece of ice that struck the shuttle shortly after Wednesday's liftoff is believed to have caused the gouge near the hatch of one of the shuttle's landing gears, mission manager John Shannon said. NASA HO/AFP
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 12, 2007
Damage to the US space shuttle Endeavour's protective thermal shield caused by a piece of debris during launch appears to be less serious than previously believed, a NASA official said.

But astronauts will go ahead with a scheduled inspection, during which the protective shield will be examined with the help of a laser attached to Endeavour's robotic arm, said John Shannon, a mission manager, during a press conference late Saturday.

Video footage of Wednesday's launch showed a piece of foam detaching from the external fuel tank, according to Shannon.

That piece of foam which could also have been covered with ice hit the shuttle, damaging its protective tiles.

But since foam is lighter than ice, Shannon continued, damage was likely less serious.

"I think we will have a final resolution on Monday when we do the thermo analysis," Shannon said.

"The consensus in the mission management team is -- considering the flight history we had, the location of it -- all are very good signs that it will not be something that we will have to be worried about," the official said.

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NASA to take close look at Endeavour shield damage
Washington (AFP) Aug 12, 2007
NASA engineers on Monday pored over new imagery of the space shuttle Endeavour's underbelly to decide if its damaged heat shield needed repair, as astronauts prepared for the mission's second spacewalk. The three-dimensional images of a gouge in the shield were taken Sunday by a camera, and measured by a laser, both of which were trained on the shuttle's protective surface.

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