Minor tile damage to space shuttle Atlantis

May 13th, 2009 - 4:31 am ICT by IANS  

Hubble Space Telescope Washington, May 13 (DPA) An inspection of the space shuttle Atlantis Tuesday revealed damage to tiles on one of the craft’s wing, a NASA official said.
The routine examination one day after Atlantis’ launch from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope noted “four tiles with some dings (small dents) in them”, said Tony Ceccacci, the mission’s lead flight director, noting the damage looked “very minor”.

The fifth and last mission to repair Hubble launched Monday and the shuttle is slated to rendezvous with the telescope Wednesday.

NASA experts would take a closer look at the damage to determine whether further action was needed, he said.

The inspection is part of standard protocol on all missions since the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated when re-entering Earth’s atmosphere in 2003 after damage to heat-shield tiles sustained during launch.

Atlantis is taking added precautions because the crew would not be able to take shelter in the International Space Station in case of a severe problem. Another shuttle, Endeavour, has been moved to the launch pad and will be on standby in the unlikely event the astronauts need to find another ride home.

The seven-member Atlantis crew will undertake five spacewalks in five straight days, adding two new instruments, repairing two others and replacing other hardware in frequently delicate operations to Hubble.

Scientists say the upgrades, which US space agency NASA hopes will extend Hubble’s life span until at least 2014, will continue to provide clues about the origin and nature of the universe.

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