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US shuttle to return early to avoid hurricane

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 18, 2007
NASA will bring the shuttle Endeavour back to Earth a day early, on Tuesday, to avoid disruption to ground operations from hurricane Dean as it roars towards the US coast, the US space agency said Saturday.

The shuttle will undock from the International Space Center early Sunday morning ahead of a landing Tuesday, mission spokesman LeRoy Cain told a news conference.

"The earlier landing is being considered in the event Hurricane Dean threatens the Houston area," in the southern state of Texas, where NASA's mission control base is located, the agency said in a statement.

"It would allow an opportunity for the shuttle to land before Mission Control would be shut down to prepare for a storm."

The shuttle had been scheduled to land back on Earth on Wednesday after its mission to install equipment on the orbiting laboratory.

Dean, the first storm of the 2007 hurricane season in North America (June-November) -- was heading for Jamaica and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, packing 240 kilometer (150 miles) per hour winds.

It was characterized by the Miami-based National Hurrican Center as an "extremely dangerous hurricane."

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NASA says shuttle heat shield needs no repair
Washington (AFP) Aug 16, 2007
NASA determined on Thursday that there was no need to attempt a risky repair to the shuttle Endeavour's heat shield because the damage did not present a significant danger, a spokesman said.

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